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Why the Arctic is climate change's canary in the coal mine - William Chapman


25,692 Questions Answered

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The Arctic may seem like a frozen and desolate environment where nothing ever changes. But the climate of this unique and remote region can be both an early indicator of the climate of the rest of the Earth and a driver for weather patterns across the globe. William Chapman explains why scientists often describe the Arctic as the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to climate change.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Albedo in Latin means “white,” and is a measure of how much solar energy is reflected back into space from a surface. Why is this so important in regard to climate change in the Arctic? Visit this site and find out! The National Snow and Ice Data Center has lots more information about albedo, sea ice, and the thermodynamics involved in the growth and melting of sea ice. For the current and historical state of Arctic sea ice, visit The Cryosphere Today. Looking for satellite observations of Arctic change discussed in the lesson? NASA has them! Watch the NASA video illustration Ice albedo feedback.

Still a bit confused about positive and negative feedbacks? Watch the Daisyworld Model and learn more! Then read this article in Time Magazine: Evidence for Arctic Feedback Loop. What will be the impact of all these changes? Absorption in the Arctic due to sea ice melt has increased by 5 percent since 2000. Sounds like a small amount, but there are real concerns. Visit NASA and find out what they are. Then, watch an animation of multiyear year sea ice loss. Love data? Check out the background information on historic sea ice minima.

Sea ice is melting, should we be concerned about the impact of its loss? Arctic Sea Loss Creates Ripple Effects has some answers. Have questions? Look for your answers here, then visit the Global Climate Change website and Tour the Cryosphere.

Are you full of questions about the possible impact of all these changes in the Arctic? What is the polar vortex? Why is there so much Antarctic sea ice? Does melting Arctic sea ice melt cause a change in our atmosphere? For answers to all these questions and more visit Icelights: Your Burning Questions about Ice and Climate.

What do recycling, checking your tire pressure and changing to compact fluorescent light bulbs all have in common? These are all ways YOU can help decrease your impact on global warming. Every little bit can help. Visit the EPA for more suggestions! Then, peruse Global Warming Solutions by National Geographic and take the Great Energy Challenge.

There are many more TED-Ed Lessons on climate change. Watch them, learn, and see what you can do to make a difference.

Why I must speak out about climate change: James Hansen
Time-lapse proof of extreme ice loss: James Balog
Climate change: Earth’s giant game of Tetris: Joss Fong
Cloudy climate change: How clouds affect Earth’s temperature: Jasper Kirkby

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Bill Chapman
  • Director Sandro Katamashvili
  • Sound Designer Shotiko Shatberashvili
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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