Our climate is already changing, particularly in the Arctic where permafrost is melting, glaciers are receding, and sea ice is disappearing.
Changes in the Arctic will not only affect local people and ecosystems but also the rest of the world, because the Arctic plays a special role in global climate.
How has the climate changed in the Arctic so far, and what future changes are expected?
“Records of increasing temperatures, melting glaciers, reductions in extent and thickness of sea ice, thawing permafrost, and rising sea level all provide strong evidence of recent warming in the Arctic. There are regional variations due to atmospheric winds and ocean currents, with some areas showing more warming than others and a few areas even showing a slight cooling; but for the Arctic as a whole, there is a clear warming trend. There are also patterns within this overall trend; for example, in most places, temperatures in winter are rising more rapidly than in summer.”
Both natural and human-caused factors can influence the climate. Among the natural factors that can have significant effects lasting years to decades are variations in solar output, major volcanic eruptions, and natural, sometimes cyclic, interactions between the atmosphere and oceans. But that’s not all…
“Over the past 30 years, the annual average sea-ice extent has decreased by about 8%,or nearly one million square kilometers, an area larger than all of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark combined, and the melting trend is accelerating.”
Projecting future climate change and its potential impacts has two major factors to determine how human activities will cause the climate to change in the future:
- the level of future global emissions of greenhouse gases, and
- the response of the climate system to these emissions.
There is much we can do every day at home to lessen our impact on Climate Change. However, this post is not about that. Though we can direct you over to Stop Global Warming to learn more about what you can do.
Instead, we want to talk about a very unique volunteer project in the Arctic that you can take part in. With Earthwatch you’ll head to the edge of the Arctic:
“You’ll study climate change at sites ranging from the tundra into the forest by monitoring changes affecting the gases stored in these peat-rich ecosystems. Summer and fall teams will use ground-penetrating radar, microclimate dataloggers, and soil coring to measure the permafrost’s organic carbon levels. You’ll also live-trap small mammals, evaluate growth rings in trees and shrubs through sampling, and monitor plant development. February teams will experience the Arctic’s edge in its most dramatic season. Traveling by gamutik (sled) towed by snowmobiles, you’ll classify ice crystals, and measure snowpack thickness, density, and temperature. You can also learn how to build an igloo and sleep in it comfortably, even when the temperature outside is -30 or -40 degrees Celsius.”
Global warming is most dramatically visible at the edge of the Arctic, where peatlands run in a broad strip around the globe. These wetlands contain as much as 20% of the world’s carbon, usually locked in permafrost. But as the permafrost thaws, carbon dioxide and methane — the most pernicious greenhouse gases — may be released, which in turn could increase the rate of global warming, with devastating implications for the planet. What happens to the peat there will not only alter the local ecosystem, but also the entire biosphere. On the expedition you will help Dr. Peter Kershaw and colleagues monitor ecosystem responses and gather data on the potential impacts of this phenomenon — before it’s too late.
The volunteer stay is 10-11 days and Earthwatch is currently taking sign-ups for June, Aug, Sept of 2012, Feb, June, Aug, Sept of 2013 and Feb 2012. Check out their volunteer blog and read for yourself what it is like to be a part of this amazing adventure. There are also many volunteer resources available at their site.
The cost to volunteer for one these projects starts about $3500 for most of your arrangements and accommodations though do not including airfare, visas and travel insurance. Of course, that’s why I started Love Infinitely Project, to make these volunteer opportunities much more affordable for the general public and hopefully covering most if not all the costs for you. In the meantime, if you have the time and resources and want to head out to make a difference and battle climate change, this is a great place to start. If you have questions about Earthwatch or want to know about other ways in which to help, email us at email@example.com.
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