Tipping Point Risk for Eastern Arctic

A rapid climate shift in the Barents Sea might spread to other Arctic regions. Scientists warn the arctic sea is at a tipping point, changing into an Atlantic climate as the water warms. At a conference in Norway, scientists discussed the Kara Sea and the Laptev Sea becoming the new eastern Arctic frontier.

The change may have a cascading impact on global weather patterns. Scientists are particularly concerned because the north Barents Sea has had an Arctic climate since the end of the last Ice Age.

The Arctic Ocean has a cold, fresh water layer that acts as a cap, reflecting off solar radiation. In the Barents Sea, there’s not enough freshwater sea-ice flowing from the high Arctic to keep the sea covered.

A dangerous feedback loop is accelerating and now it’s just a matter of time before the area will become part of the Atlantic, it could be in as little as a decade.

While this is happening in the eastern Arctic, freshwater in the western Arctic seems to be increasing.



Photo: “Phytoplankton Bloom in the Barents Sea [Detail]” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is licensed under CC BY 2.0