Planet Gore

The Benefits of Melting Ice

One of the things you read a lot about global warming is how it will have a devastating affect on the food chain. Just one example:

Ocean acidification is a sleeper issue many are unaware of. As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide, they become more acidic, and at a certain point will become too acidic to support certain marine organisms that form shells, like plankton at the base of the food chain and corals. Losing or disrupting plankton would have far-reaching effects because so many other fish and other marine organisms depend on them for food, and losing corals would devastate local ecosystems by removing diverse nurseries of life.

So, what’s happening to the plankton in the melting north? Not surprising, the actual findings run “against a generally accepted idea about Arctic Ocean waters.”

Nov. 12, 2008 — Record summer sea ice losses in the Arctic Ocean are now leading to bursts of ocean life in the newly open waters, say researchers watching the north polar sea from space.

Blooms of phytoplankton have been increasing as the summer sea ice shrinks further back every year, according to observations made using the space-borne ocean color monitoring instrument called Seawifs.

“It’s going up,” said Stanford University researcher Kevin Arrigo, referring to the surge in phytoplankton in Arctic waters. “That was a surprise to us.”

Arrigo coauthored a paper reporting on phytoplankton productivity for 2007, which adds to previous observations made from 1998 to 2006. The paper appears in a recent issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

What makes the phytoplankton trend surprising is that the microscopic plant-life continues to boom each summer without any signs of slowing — at least in the nine years that Seawifs has been up there watching. That sort of growth runs against a generally accepted idea about Arctic Ocean waters.

So much for the “settled science.”


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