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Climate change clues in sky

Nov 26, 2006

Scientists are peering into the clouds near the top of the world, trying to solve the mystery is the droplets of water in the clouds. With the North Pole just 685 miles away, they should be frozen, yet more of them are liquid than anyone expected. Liquid water has even been detected in clouds at temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 F). Water clouds are more likely to warm the Arctic atmosphere than ice clouds, since the liquid clouds retain more heat radiated by the Earth's surface. "In the old days, we used to have 10 months of winter; now it's six. Every year we're getting winter later and later." Studies show that average winter temperatures have increased as much as 7 degrees in the Arctic over the last 50 years. The permafrost - ground that is continually frozen for at least two years - is thawing, imperiling polar bears and forcing other animals to migrate farther north. Climate change is cyclical - the planet's vegetation, over millions of years, sucks in and spits out carbon dioxide. "All the carbon dioxide in the coal and oil was once in the air. The plants took it and it went into the oceans or into the ground - and now we're taking it back out. The cycle is the same today, only you're taking something that took 100,000 years and doing it in one hundred years."
Photo Above: Russ Schnell, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Global Monitoring Division, uses an inflatable globe to illustrate his points about threats to earth's ozone layer and global warming as he speaks at the Eureka Weather Station in the Canadian territory of Nunavut Monday, July 24, 2006. Scientists at the station, located far above the Arctic Circle, are working to understand the actual components of global warming by studying the weather patterns that are impacting the atmosphere at the top of the world. (AP Photo)

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