Irreversible warming tipping point possibly triggered: Arctic mission chief

Irreversible warming tipping point possibly triggered: Arctic mission chief

BERLIN: The tipping point for irreversible global warming has already begun, said the scientist leading the largest expedition ever to the Arctic on Tuesday.
“The disappearance of summer sea ice in the Arctic is one of the first landmines in this minefield, one of the tipping points we first set when we push warming too far,” said Marcus Rex. ”
“And one can inevitably ask if we haven’t already stepped on this mine and started to explode already.”
Rex led the world’s largest mission to the North Pole, an expedition involving 300 scientists from 20 countries.
The expedition returned to Germany in October after 389 days drifting through the Arctic, bringing home devastating evidence of a dying Arctic Ocean and warnings of ice-free summers in just decades.
The 140 million euro ($165 million) expedition also brought back 150 terabytes of data and more than 1,000 ice samples.
Summarizing their earlier findings, Rex said that scientists found that Arctic sea ice “returned faster in the spring of 2020 than at the start of the record” and that “summer sea ice spread was greater than that of decades earlier.” The comparison was only half.
The ice was only half as thick and the temperature was 10 degrees higher than the Fram expedition conducted in the 1890s by explorers and scientists Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansson.
Because of the smaller sea ice surface, the ocean was able to absorb more heat in the summer, meaning that ice sheet formation in the autumn was slower than usual.
– ‘painful’ – “Only assessment in the coming years will allow us to determine whether we can still save year-round Arctic sea ice through tremendous climate protection, or whether we are already at risk of this significant change in the climate system.” The tipping point has been passed,” Rex added, urging rapid action to stop the warming.
World leaders had agreed under the Paris Agreement in 2015 to take action to limit global warming to below 2 °C, preferably 1.5 °C, compared to pre-industrial levels.
Stephanie Arndt, who specializes in sea ice physics, said, “It is sad to learn that we are probably the last generation to experience the Arctic, which still has summer sea ice cover”.
“This sea ice cover is slowly shrinking and it is an important habitat for polar bears,” said Arndt, recalling observations of seals and other animals in the polar habitat.
Data collected during the expedition included readings on the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice and ecosystems.
Several hundred scientific publications analyzing the findings are expected to be published between 2021 and 2023.
During the campaign, scientists established four observation sites on the sea ice within a 40-kilometre (25 mi) radius around the mission’s “Polarstern” (North Star) ship.
Among the data collected were water samples from under the ice to study plant plankton and bacteria and better understand how marine ecosystems function under extreme conditions.
More than 100 parameters were measured almost continuously throughout the year.
The abundance of information will aid in the development of models to help predict what a heatwave, heavy rain or storm might look like in 20, 50 or 100 years.

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