Not only is arctic sea ice dwindling, reaching its lowest level ever recorded, but springtime snow in Canada is melting faster than the ice in the arctic.
The premature melting of the springtime snow has extensive implications for Earth’s climate change. Once springtime snow melts, spring runoff from the mountains fill the Canadian rivers. Also the snow would usually reflect the light from the sun to maintain a lower temperature, Chris Derksen at Environment Canada, in Toronto told NPR.
According to Derksen, the land is heating up more rapidly when it is stripped too early of the snow:
“When you remove the snow cover form the land surface, much as when you remove the sea ice from the ocean, you take away a highly reflective, bright surface, and you expose the bare land or tundra underneath, and that absorbs more solar energy.”
A study, which was accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters and was written by Derksen and colleague Ross Brown, documents the profound rate at which the snow has been melting
According to Derksen, the snow melting is as significant as the loss of arctic sea ice. The amount of snow melting is declining by 18 percent per decade versus 11 percent of arctic sea ice per decade.
“We’re now losing spring Arctic snow cover at a rate faster than the models predict,” Derksen said. This leaves many worrying what the state of the environment will be like in two or three decades.
Researchers from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks are also concerned with the early snowmelt. Syndonia Bret-Harte from the university says the early snowmelt also affects rivers which spawning fish rely on.
Another concern is when ice melts, it releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which could lead to more and increasingly more extreme fires in the boreal forests.
Bret-Harte believes the earlier loss of snow and lessening of ice will lead to warmer temperatures on the southern hemisphere as well:
“Since the Arctic acts as the air conditioner … for the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, heating up in the Arctic is also probably going to cause feedbacks to heating up in the more southern climate.”
“Less snow, less ice, more warming,” NPR reports.