Steve Desch is a professor of astrophysics at the School of Earth & Space Exploration at Arizona State University who's come up with a novel plan to rescue the rapidly melting Arctic. He and a team of university colleagues want to replenish the region's shrinking sea ice by building 10 million wind-powered pumps over the Arctic ice cap. In winter these would be used to pump water to the surface of the ice, where it would freeze, thickening the cap.
According to Desch, this is an urgent climate-change issue facing the planet. In a research article in the journal Earth's Future called "Arctic Ice Management," he described it in alarming terms.
"As the Earth's climate has changed, Arctic sea ice extent has decreased drastically," he wrote. "It is likely that the late-summer Arctic will be ice-free as soon as the 2030s."
Already, the region's warming trend is breaking records. Last November, when sea ice should have begun thickening and spreading over the Arctic as winter set in, the region warmed up. Temperatures should have plummeted to -25 degrees C but reached several degrees above freezing instead. This warming is unprecedented, according to researchers. Even in January the Arctic sea ice was the lowest in 38 years since satellites began surveying the region, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
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This is a situation that threatens the planet's sustainable future. The loss of the Arctic's summer sea ice cover disrupts life in the region, endangering many of its species. It would also trigger further warming of the planet by removing ice that reflects solar radiation back into space, disrupt weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere and melt permafrost, thus releasing more carbon gases into the atmosphere.
He said that it's likely already too late to reverse the situation by decreasing temperatures and carbon dioxide levels, and simply telling people not to use fossil fuels isn't enough. This being the case, his article proposes restoring the region's sea ice artificially, by using wind power to pump water to the surface during the winter, where it will freeze more rapidly.
That may sound like a lot, but Desch said the time has come to start thinking big.