Arctic case study

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  • Created by: keeels
  • Created on: 09-05-14 13:33
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  • The Arctic
    • The Arctic is the area around the North Pole. It includes the northern parts of Asia, North America and Europe. Global warming is affecting the Arctic directly
      • The area of Arctic sea ice (frozen sea water) has been shrinking at an increasing rate - some scientists think there won't be any sea ice in the summer by 2030
      • The Greenland ice sheet is melting - most scientists think the rate of melting has increased in recent years
      • The permafrost boundary is moving north and the area covered by permafrost is shrinking
      • The treeline (the point beyond which trees can't grow) is moving north and the area where trees can't grow is shrinking
      • These effects are having indirect impacts on the environment and ecology (the distribution and abundance of organisms) of the Arctic
    • Environmental impacts
      • Melting of ice sheets like the Greenland ice sheet will mean an injection of fresh water into the sea. This will causes changes in the density of the water and could disrupt ocean currents like the north Atlantic drift
      • Thawing of permafrost releases more CO2 and methane - permafrost's a natural sink
    • Ecological impacts
      • Changing climatic regions means the habitats of some species are being reduced or lost e.e polar bears use areas of sea ice to hunt for food. As this is lost polar bears may become endangered in the wild
      • Some parts of the Arctic have very sensitive ecosystems - there are few species, so the loss of one may have devastating impacts on other species that rely on them
      • In other parts of the Arctic, like the ocean, the number and diversity of species (e.g fish) may increase as sea ice coverage is reduced and temperatures increase
    • Socio-economic Impacts
      • shrinking sea ice could open up new shipping routes in the summer
      • New natural resources may be exploited e.g sea ice increases the area available for fishing
      • It is also thought there are undiscovered oil and gas reserves in the Arctic - unfrozen ground would make them easier to find and extract
        • Russia have exported the first oil from the Arctic
      • Access to new resources may lead to conflict over which countries own them though
      • Warmer soils and climate may increase the opportunity for agriculture or forestry
      • Thawing of permafrost can result in collapsed buildings and broken pipelines where ground has become less stable
    • consequences for the rest of the world
      • melting ice sheets will add to rising global sea lebel
      • Ocean currents in the Arctic are affected by salinity changes (freshwater from melting ice sheets changes the density of sea levels), which affects global ocean currents because they operate as an interlinked system
      • Changing temperatures, sea ice and landscapes affect air currents in the Arctic. This also affects global weather patterns because the atmosphere also operates also operates as an interlinked system

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