‘The Arctic is Warming Much Faster Than the Rest of the Globe'
TerraGreen|November 2020
Dr M Ravichandran is Director of the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research in Goa under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India, where he guides the Indian Arctic Programme that aegis India’s permanent research base ‘Himadri’ in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago since 2008. In this interaction with Bhavya Khanna for TerraGreen, he explains why Arctic amplification happens, what escalates its pace, its likely consequences for India and geographies alike, and what must be done to address this looming danger.
Bhavya Khanna

Arctic region is clad in snow and ice both on its landmass and sea. Its glaciers are freshwater reserves for the world. Because of Arctic warming, there has been a reduction in the expanse and thickness of sea ice and an increase in the open sea. How do these changes impact climate and weather especially in countries like India albeit being remotely located?

Although India and Arctic region are remote, these regions impact each other via the atmosphere and oceans, in short-and long-term, respectively. In the short term, extreme rainfall in Northern India impacts Arctic melting. In the long term, Arctic warming and melting of land ice will eventually increase the sea levels and temperature of the Indian Ocean and will shrink the Indian coast.

Scientific papers have documented that the Earth’s Arctic region is warming a two-three times higher rate than the global average of around 0.5ËšC per decade. Why is it that the Arctic region is warming up at this relatively higher pace compared to the rest of the world?

Arctic region is unique and is warming at a high pace due to many feedback mechanisms operating together. First, high atmospheric temperature causes melting of Arctic ice which increases the extent of open sea. More open sea absorbs more solar heat which warms ocean waters. When ocean waters warm up, the air above the ocean water also warms up, creating a positive feedback loop that results in increasing both atmospheric and oceanic temperatures. This phenomenon is known as the temperature-albedo feedback. Warming the ocean also increases evaporation from the oceans which condenses to form a cloud cover. More clouds prevent heat escape from the lower atmosphere, which increases the atmospheric and oceanic temperatures even further. This phenomenon is called the temperature clouds-radiation feedback. Clouds also contribute to cooling by reflecting some of the incoming solar radiation. Hence, the time of the year when the clouds form becomes important. Clouds that form during winters will increase temperatures and those that form during summers will contribute to cooling.

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