Environment, News, Science

Scientists Working To Save Arctic Ice Cap

The decrease in sea ice in the Arctic is seen in this image, which compares 2012 sea ice levels with the yellow outline, which shows the average sea ice level from 1979 through 2010. Image: NASA

A team of scientists has come up with a plan they say could help rebuild the Arctic ice cap. The ice cap is a huge area of sea ice that covers most of the Arctic Ocean all year round.

Usually, the sea ice gets thicker and spreads further each winter, but this hasn’t happened for the past few years.

Last month, the ice cap had shrunk to its smallest size since scientists began keeping records of it 38 years ago. The weather in the Arctic has been unusually warm this winter. Some days, temperatures have been 20 degrees Celsius higher than is normal for this time of year. This month, the temperature was above 0°C (the melting point for ice) at least one day.

The Arctic ice cap is important because sea ice reflects heat and light from the sun back into space. With less ice, the ocean would absorb more heat. The Arctic would warm up even more quickly, and more ice would melt.

Without sea ice, many animals would lose their natural habitats and could be come endangered. It could also affect the weather, with more storms and erosion along the coast.

Dr. Steven Desch and a group of scientists from Arizona State University in the United States think they can help to build up Arctic sea ice again. They want to install wind-powered pumps on the existing sea ice. During the winter, the pumps would spread water from the ocean over the surface of the ice where it would freeze and form a new layer of ice. The scientists say that in 10 years, this could add an extra metre of ice to the ice cap. (The Arctic ice cap is about two to three metres thick right now.)

The plan would require about 10 million pumps and it would be very expensive–about $655 billion. Some other scientists are wondering if the pumps would actually work in harsh Arctic conditions. They are also concerned about how the project might affect the environment.

Dr. Desch said his team hoped their proposal would get more people interested in looking for a solution to the problem of melting sea ice. He said the only plan people have right now is to try to reduce greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide) emissions from cars and other man-made sources. He and his team don’t think that will be enough to save the sea ice, so they’re going to work on their plan and hope that it will give everyone a good start on saving the Arctic ice cap.

Related Links

What is a Polar Ice Cap?

Vanishing Arctic Ice video

By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
The decrease in the Arctic ice cap is another example of climate change. Climate change can cause many problems. For example, strange weather patterns could cause flooding or drought and species could become extinct.

As explained in the article, a major causes of climate change are carbon dioxide emissions from cars and other sources. Scientists ask that we reduce our emissions, which would mean that we would need to change how we live. What would this look like; what would people need to change on a daily basis in order to make a difference? Do you think people are willing to make these changes? Why or why not?

Reading Prompt: Demonstrating Understanding
Before reading this article, were you familiar with the Arctic ice cap? This article contains a lot of scientific information  that explain how shrinking polar ice impacts the environment.

In 4 sentences, summarize the article in your own words. How did you decide what information to include in your summary and what information to leave out?

Demonstrate understanding of a variety of texts by summarizing important ideas and citing supporting details (OME, Reading: 1.4).

Demonstrate understanding of increasingly complex texts by summarizing important ideas and citing a variety of details that support the main idea (OME, Reading: 1.4).

Language Feature: Hyphen
A hyphen connects two words together. For example, the hyphenated word, man-made, refers to something that is made by people. Can you think of 5 other hyphenated words? Use each one in a sentence that shows the meaning of the word.