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It seems to me that if there is a "tipping point" for Arctic sea ice, it is not when the sea ice hits zero in fall, but in a warmer climate when the sea ice fails to form in winter. The reason, in simple words, is that sea ice loss has a net cooling effect in winter, but a large warming effect in summer. In winter, the sea ice prevents ocean heat from escaping by reducing heat flow to space, and letting the surface and the air get to cold. Sea ice helps to keep the planet warm. In summer the sea ice prevents solar heat from warming the ocean. Clouds and many other things complicate this, of course. Note that there is very little solar heat late in the year, when sea ice will first be completely gone. So there is very little added heat gain, and that is soon lost in winter. Focus on the major store of heat, the Arctic Ocean. The ocean gains heat from solar input, and from currents from outside the poles. The ocean loses heat to the atmosphere and then to space. Sea ice reduces the solar input, and also reduces the winter heat loss by allowing the surface to get cold.
Toggle Commented Jun 10, 2014 on The day the ice cap died at Arctic Sea Ice
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Jun 10, 2014