A climate tipping point?

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A climate tipping point?

Postby HBS Guy » 27 Jun 2018, 23:21

The Barents Sea lies north of Norway and Russia, bounded by Arctic islands like Svalbard and Franz Josef Land. To its west is the North Atlantic, and the Arctic Ocean is to its north. And data from prior to the year 2000 indicates that the Barents acted as a buffer between the two oceans. . . .

In essence, the authors argue that the entire Barents Sea has started to behave as an arm of the Atlantic. Unless some external factor re-establishes the layer of fresh water on the surface, "the entire region could soon have a warm and well-mixed water-column structure and be part of the Atlantic domain."

Tip of the ice
From a strictly human-centric position, the changes aren't necessarily a terrible thing. In terms of ecosystems, the authors describe the Barents as "divided into two regions with distinct climate regimes—the north having a cold and harsh Arctic climate and ice-associated ecosystem, while the south has a favorable Atlantic climate with a rich ecosystem and lucrative fisheries." The expansion of these fisheries, while coming at the cost of the native ecosystem, could prove a boon for the countries bordering the region.

But the general gist of the study is considerably more ominous: not only have we discovered a climate tipping point, but we've spotted it after the system has probably already flipped into a new regime. It also provides some sense of what to expect from the future. Rather than seeing the entire planet experience a few dramatic changes, we're likely to see lots of regional tipping points that have more of a local effect. The future will be the sum of these events and their interactions, making it a bit harder to predict which changes we should be planning for.


Basically the Barents Sea is now much more an arm of the Atlantic Ocean not the Arctic Ocean and will be essentially ice free for a large part of the year. That means it absorbs Arctic sunlight instead of reflecting increasing the heat on the planet.
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