The Impacts of Global Warming- The Arctic

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The Arctic- Background Information

Background Information:

-Lies within the Arctic circle (66.5 degrees line of latitude)

-Part of Canada, Greenland, Russia, USA, Iceland, Norway, Sweden + Finland

-Jan temps= -35C, July Temps= -1.5C

Inceasing average Temperature are melting ice:

-Permanent sea ice has decreased by 14% between 2004 and 2005

-Until recently, 80% of solar radiation was reflected from the polar ice caps

-Now the ice has decreased and the volume of ocean has increased

-Oceans are darker than ice and snow and absorb more energy- converting it to heat

-This speeds up the warming effect, which melts more ice= POSITIVE ICE ALBEDO FEEDBACK

- At current rates, 50-60% of Arctic Ice will be lost by 2100

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The Arctic- Impacts on the Environment

Increasing Temperatures have led to:

1) TREE LINE moving North to higher altitudes

2) TUNDRA ecosystems in Arctic areas which withstand intense cold, being lost as the climate warms, resulting in other plants taking over; changing the ecosystem

3) PERMAFROST thawing out

4) The SPREAD OF SPECIES e.g. Spruce Bark Beetle in Alaska-changing the food chain

5) Increased number + extent of NORTHERN CONIFEROUS forest fires in Arctic Russia.

-10 million hectares burn each year- losing 0.8%of the world's confierous forest

-Boreal ecosystems account for 37% of the world's carbon pool on land and are effective carbon sinks

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The Arctic- Fish Stock + Polar Bear Problems

1) Shrinking Ice sheets has affected Marine species in the Arctic

2) Warmer Water has reduced the quantity of marine plants on which many smaller fish feed

3) Reduction of smaller fish species has affected those higher up the food chain e.g. cod, halibut which affects larger marine species e.g. seals

4) This has a negative multiplier effect- Smaller seal stock reduce the available food supply for polar bears

POLAR BEAR ISSUES:

-They hunt seals on ice and the faster annual ice melt has reduced their Spring hunting season

-Hudson Bay is now ice free for 3 weeks longer than in 1895- giving polar bears less time to hunt the reduced number of seals

-Female polar bears rely on Spring to build up their body fat to ensure their survival during the summer

-Currently, each polar bear loses 80kg of fate during the summer, making the susceptible to disease and ability to reproduce or feed their cubs- they face extinction

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The Arctic- Socio-economic Impacts

1) Global Warming poses threats to 155 000 Inuits living in the Arctic region

IMPACTS:

- Each winter Inuit men take their fishing shacks + equipement on the ice for 3 months. Weaker, thinner ice collapses easily, making their job more dangerous

-Ice use to protect costal areas. However, now coasts are exposed to more ocean waves and storms- causing destruction of villages and forcing people to move inland

-24 Inuits villages in Alaska are at risk of flooding due to rising sea levels

-80% Inuit hunt Cairbou, fish and marine mammals for 70 % of income . As marine stock declines, the Inuit rely more on Caribou, which in turn puts more pressure on Caribou stock.

-Caribou and marine animals provide 90% of Inuit food and provide vital income. Reduction is dangerous for Inuits as high protein intake is needed to cope with the cold.

-Imported food is expensive ($1million) + provide less iron, magnesium + calcium than natural diet

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Global Warming in the Arctic- good or bad?

Advantages:

-The Northern Sea route, North of Canada is the quickest way of travelling from Europe to the Pacific and Asia. The melting Ice has meant Tourist ships are able to visit Northern Canada and 30% of Inuit now earn income from culpture or print-making for tourists.

-In 2007, the North West Passage between Canada and the Arctic melted sufficiently to allow shipping through

-Discovery of Natural Resources

Problems:

-Greater frequency of the Passage North of Canada increases the risk of pollution and oil spills

-Russia has statred to allow nuclear waste disposal- posing threat to the Marine Ecosystem

-Thawing Permafrost- Collapsed buildings, broken pipes

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Reasons for the Loss of Ice taking place in the Ar

1) CLIMATE CHANGE- Increase of melting Ice due to increase of Greenhouse Gas Emissions e.g. CO2, CH4, NOn, Water Vapour

2) More pronounced in Arctic regions due to higher latitudes. Melting wuickly due to wind patterns and warming of water

3) POSITIVE ICE ALBEDO EFFECT:

-Ice melts --> Less light reflected + more absorbed --> Warming the oceans --> More Ice melts

=TIPPING POINT

4) Melting of Permafrost- CH4 released- adds to increase of Greenhouse Gas emission

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