Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Arctic melt top weather story of decade, if not century, says expert

Pat Hewitt in the Canadian Press: The big Arctic melt of 2007 which shocked scientists and served as an environmental wake-up call for the planet is the top weather story of the decade, if not the past 100 years, says one of Canada's leading climatologists. The Canadian Press asked Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips to comb through his 100 top weather news stories since 2000 and rank the country's Top 10.

While Western Canada dominated the list with floods, fires, drought, record temperatures and a deadly tornado it was the dramatic melting of the polar ice cap that captured the top spot. "Certainly for me it may be the story of the century, as opposed to just the story of the decade, because the implications of that particular kind of event are unknown," Phillips said.

Satellite images revealed Arctic sea ice had shrunk to 4.28 million square km in 2007. That was 39 per cent below the long-term average from 1979 to 2000 - a minimum not seen for possibly more than a century, he said. "When you look at that event, in many ways, it was absolutely shocking to scientists," said Phillips. "It was almost like an environmental surprise, the fact that the ice just disappeared. It seemed overnight."

While the ice had been thinning for decades, the big loss "raised a consciousness around the world that this dramatic event was happening," he added….

Ground moraine of a former glacier on Bylot Island (Sirmilik National Park, Canada). Photo by the great Arctic photographer Ansgar Walk, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

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