One of the most alarming recent developments in climate change science has been the accelerating rate of melting of the North polar ice cap.
A group of scientists from the University of Stockholm has come up with a new explanation that may or may not change the level of urgency, but will certainly produce some useful discussion about what is happening in detail.
According to an article in New Scientist, the generally accepted interpretation of positive feedback due to a decrease in reflectivity of the north polar region may be insufficient to explain the observed acceleration of the melting rate.
By examining temepratures not only at the surface butalso at higher altitudes, the Swedish researchers concluded that the most significant warming was occurring at an altitude of 2 kilometers.
From this, they conclude that the warming may be due to an increase in geat flow by tropical cyclones that carry energy from the Equator towards the poles.
Since the influence of global warming on tropical cyclones is still open to scientific debate, it is possible that the recent melting trend is only temporarily more pronounced. Even if that is so, the increase in the area of open Arctic seas in midsummer is expected to continue until the ice disappears completely within a few decades.
For me, the take home message of this study is the importance of developing as clear a scientific understanding as possible so that policy makers have a higher degree of confidence in the scenarios that go into their deliberations and decisions.