In Arctic food webs, even small changes can have large cascading effects on higher organisms. Intense studies of these areas will help scientists to better understand how climate change affects Arctic biology, and how these changes in turn affect the Earth system. No ice in the summer means thinner ice that melts faster in the winter. It's multi-year ice that keeps the Arctic cold, and helps control weather around the world.
"When you change sea ice, you change climate and weather patterns that affect us throughout the U.S.," said Grebmeier, who represents the United States on the International Arctic Science Committee.
A decline in sea ice has other implications, as well. Fishing might move north. Ships from China might take a shortcut through the Bering Strait to reach destinations in Europe instead of the long trip across the Indian Ocean and through the Suez Canal. Oil companies could more easily access oil reserves for more of the year. People who live in the Arctic are also interested in these changes, as increased use of the waterways can lead to contamination of fisheries, pollution, and shifts in their economy.
"When you go up there you really see changes," said Grebmeier. "We're like the frogs in the pot here. But up there, just in the past 20 or 30 years, the changes have been quite obvious."
|Contact: Amy Pelsinsky|
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science