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Study: Arctic getting darker, making Earth warmer

Blue icebergs in arctic ocean near Ilulissat

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Arctic isn't nearly as bright and white as it used to be because of more ice melting in the ocean, and that's turning out to be a global problem, a new study says.

With more dark, open water in the summer, less of the sun's heat is reflected back into space. So the entire Earth is absorbing more heat than expected, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That extra absorbed energy is so big that it measures about one-quarter of the entire heat-trapping effect of carbon dioxide, said the study's lead author, Ian Eisenman, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

The Arctic grew 8 percent darker between 1979 and 2011, Eisenman found, measuring how much sunlight is reflected back into space.

"Basically, it means more warming," Eisenman said in an interview.

The North Pole region is an ocean that mostly is crusted at the top with ice that shrinks in the summer and grows back in the fall. At its peak melt in September, the ice has shrunk on average by nearly 35,000 square miles - about the size of Maine - per year since 1979.

Snow-covered ice reflects several times more heat than dark, open ocean, which replaces the ice when it melts, Eisenman said.

As more summer sunlight dumps into the ocean, the water gets warmer, and it takes longer for ice to form again in the fall, Jason Box of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland said in an email. He was not part of the study.

While earlier studies used computer models, Eisenman said his is the first to use satellite measurements to gauge sunlight reflection and to take into account cloud cover. The results show the darkening is as much as two to three times bigger than previous estimates, he said.

Box and University of Colorado ice scientist Waleed Abdalati, who was not part of the research, called the work important in understanding how much heat is getting trapped on Earth.

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bgr200 February 18 2014 at 11:37 PM

Change is scary for some folks especially when they don't understand it .........or refuse to.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Scoot February 19 2014 at 12:12 AM

BS !

Flag Reply +1 rate up
mgriffithb February 18 2014 at 5:28 PM

When Man /or Woman thinks that they can control the weather change on this plant we live on, we are in serious trouble. The weather is controlled by the Oceans!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
stulicius February 18 2014 at 4:46 PM

So where does **** go after you flush!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
rcanan February 18 2014 at 7:40 PM

The earth changes as it always has... Ellan Page is beautiful but she always has been... We should quit thinking about what isn't and prepare for what is...

Flag Reply +2 rate up
lhicks2378 February 18 2014 at 4:45 PM

If you don't think man is polluting the earth, then go live in China for a month and then tell me its all in our heads.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
leearlenewiljr February 18 2014 at 5:29 PM

I guess that means we are all doomed!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
djhan486 February 18 2014 at 3:11 PM

There is no such thing. There is no such thing. There is no such thing. See? It went away, and it was cold outside yesterday.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
oregonwine2 February 18 2014 at 2:23 PM

Lets get rid of all the old politicians and start over - no more crap. If the ice melts it's probably from the sun

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
Christopher oregonwine2 February 18 2014 at 3:19 PM

exactly ! THE SKY IS FALLING ! now give me your money and let me tell you where to live , what to drive, what to eat ... in the meantime I will have a private jet to travel to my vacation home

Flag Reply +4 rate up
app2uncc1 February 18 2014 at 3:13 PM

Nice picture with the cloud cover so we can see how "dark" it is. Let's see one with the sun shining to see how non reflective the surface of the water is!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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