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Jonathan Overpeck '79 Publishes Findings on Arctic Ice Melt

He Chairs NSF Arctic System Science Committee

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Hamilton alumnus Jonathan Overpeck '79, geosciences professor at the University of Arizona and chairman of the National Science Foundation's Arctic System Science Committee, has published findings confirming that the rate of ice melting in the Arctic is increasing at an unprecedented rate due to the effects of global warming. The report was issued by the Arctic System Science Committee and published on August 23 in Eos, the weekly newspaper of the American Geophysical Union. Overpeck's findings were released just a few weeks after the journal Nature released Hamilton geoscience professor Eugene Domack's study conclusively confirming that the recent collapse of a major Antarctic ice shelf was due to the effects of global warming.

In an article on CNN.com, Overpeck is quoted as saying "What really makes the Arctic different from the rest of the non-polar world is the permanent ice in the ground, in the ocean, and on land. We see all of that ice melting already, and we envision that it will melt back much more dramatically in the future, as we move towards this more permanent ice-free state."

These findings were published following a meeting of scientists that examined how the Arctic environment and climate system would respond as global temperatures rise. The scientists said they "see no natural process that is likely to change the trend." The report predicted that within a century the melting could lead to summertime ice-free ocean conditions not seen in the Arctic in a million years. Melting of land-based glaciers could take much longer but could raise sea levels, potentially affecting coastal regions worldwide, and changes to the permafrost (frozen soil layer) could undermine buildings, drain water into bogs and release additional carbon into the atmosphere, reported the CNN article.

Domack, as lead scientist of a multi-institutional, international effort to examine the response the Antarctic to modern warming, published a paper on August 4 in the journal Nature reporting that the Antarctic Peninsula is undergoing greater warming than almost anywhere on Earth, a condition perhaps associated with human-induced greenhouse effects.

News related to these two articles, offering conclusive evidence of the effects of global warming in both the Arctic and the Antarctic, has been carried worldwide by media outlets that include The Irish Times, the major Chinese wire services, the Associate Press, the New Zealand Herald, United Press International, The Independent, and several websites such as LiveScience and NewScientist, demonstrating broad international concern over the threat of global warming.

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