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How the Arctic is becoming greener

Thanks to satellite data systems NASA has been monitoring 1,000 hectares of land across Canada and Alaska. The tundra has already changed because of global warming.

NASA’s satellite pictures are astounding since they confirm what is happening in the Arctic. The images show an ever greener Earth: the tundra is giving way to another type of vegetation that changes season after season.

 

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29 years of pictures in a single shot show how Alaska and Canada are becoming greener © NASA

 

This was what NASA revealed after that it realised a very accurate and detailed map of the Arctic area, from Canada to Alaska, using a collection of over 87,000 pictures taken from 1984 to 2012. The study demonstrates that temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than elsewhere: this means that growing seasons become longer and plants have more time to grow and become thicker. This has an impact on the landscape, soil and water cycle.

 

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Researchers for NASA are in the tundra to assess the condition of the vegetation © Peter Griffith/Nasa

 

The tundra is a region where the tree growth is hindered by too low average temperatures and too brief summers. But this biome is rapidly changing. “This work shows the climate impact on vegetation in the high latitudes”, Jeffrey Masek, one of the authors of the study and researcher at the Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center, commented. This translates in an ever greener Arctic.

Ice could disappear in the Arctic

The study carried out by NASA goes hand in hand with research conducted by the US National Snow & Ice Data Centre measuring the area covered by Arctic ice. The Arctic ice now covers little more than 11 million square metres, while the average coverage in the last 30 years was around 12.7 million square metres.

 

“My prediction remains that the Arctic ice may well disappear”, professor Petar Wadhams at Cambridge University told the Independent. “That is, it may have an area of less than one million square kilometres for September of this year”. This would be the first time in more than 100,000 years.

 

Once again the scientific community is crying for help as it reports what is happening and the potential consequences of ice melting. The balance reached in thousands of years is rapidly being upset.

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