For Arctic scientists, the summer of 2007 changed everything. That’s when, for the first time in history, record warmth melted the Northwest Passage, nearly opening it to shipping; turned a portion of the East Siberian Sea the size of Mexico into open ocean; and shrank the polar ice cap to a size never before reached so early in the March-to-September melt season, as documented by satellite since 1979. Walt Meier, a senior researcher at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Colorado, was following the satellite images. “You’re watching and it’s neck and neck. Is it going to make it? Is it not going to make it? It’s like, we’re going to break this [annual low sea ice extent] record in August if it keeps up like this.” By mid-September, when the melting had halted and the Arctic Ocean had begun its annual refreeze, the ice cap was 22% smaller than it had historically ever been. “We had set a record in 2002, 2005 before that,” says Meier. “Every couple of years we’ve kind of been dropping just a little bit lower than anywhere we had been before. But 2007 just smashed things. He adds: “There was this thought that we have reached a tipping point.” Tipping point. The expression has become a foundational concept in climate change science discussions and a mainstay of media headlines. Just last month, a leaked version of the newest upcoming science report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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