7 Surprising Results From The Reduction Of Arctic Sea Ice Cover

It is now well known that sea ice in the Arctic has changed in both extent and thickness over the past several decades. In fact the change in sea ice is seen as one of the key global climate variables confirming model estimates of global scale warming of our planet through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process.

Extensive investigations at the leading edge of Arctic System Science have recently uncovered a number of surprises, many somewhat counterintuitive, each having significant consequences in the Arctic and through teleconnections to the rest of our planet. In this talk I will review the rate and magnitude of change in sea ice, put this into the context of our understanding of the ‘natural variability’ in sea ice over the past several thousand years.

I will then review seven surprising impacts of this change: 1) increasing coverage of young ice significantly changes atmospheric chemistry; 2) more snow both preserves and destroys ice; 3) Polar bear habitat can actually improve in some areas while deteriorating in others; 4) match-mismatch timing in the marine ecosystem increases vulnerability; 5) uncertainty as to whether the Arctic ocean will increase or decrease in overall productivity is a key unknown; 6) evidence that ice hazards are actually increasing while the world marshals to increase development of Arctic resources; and 7) evidence that our recent cold winters are actually linked to our warming Arctic.

About The Author

Dr. Barber obtained his Bachelors and Masters from the University of Manitoba, and his Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, Ontario. He was appointed to a faculty position at the University of Manitoba in 1993 and received a Canada Research Chair in Arctic System Science in 2002.

He is currently Associate Dean (Research), CHR Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources. Dr. Barber has extensive experience in the examination of the Arctic marine environment as a ‘system’, and the effect climate change has on this system. Dr. Barber has published over 200 articles in the peer-reviewed literature pertaining to sea ice, climate change and physical-biological coupling in the Arctic marine system.

He led the largest International Polar Year project in the world, known as the Circumpolar Flaw Lead system study. He is recognized internationally through scientific leadership in large network programs such as NOW, CASES, ArcticNet, and the Canadian Research Icebreaker (Amundsen), as an invited member of several Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council national committees, international committees and invitations to national and international science meetings.

Dr. Barber was instrumental in a national competition to bring a Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) to the University of Manitoba in the field of Arctic Geomicrobiology and Climate Change. As a member of the Centre for Earth Observation Science he leads a polar marine science group of over 100 people

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