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The melting Arctic is a crime scene

Alaska Beacon – Microbes warned of this catastrophe – but also drive it: “The Arctic’s climate is warming at least four times faster than the global average, causing irrevocable changes to this vast landscape and precarious ecosystem – from the anticipated extinction of polar bears to the appearance of killer whales in ever-greater numbers. A new study suggests the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer as soon as the 2030s – around a decade earlier than previously predicted.A new Arctic sea ice map compares the 30-year average with recent ten-year averages. But to properly understand the pace and force of what’s to come, we should instead focus on organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye. These single-celled microbes are both the watch keepers and arch-agitators of the Arctic’s demise. Scientists like me who study them have become forensic pathologists, processing crime scenes in our Arctic field sites. We don the same white anti-contamination suits, photograph each sampling site, and bag our samples for DNA analysis. In some areas, red-coloured microbes even create an effect known as “blood snow”. In this complex criminal investigation, however, the invisible witnesses are also responsible for the damage being done. Microbes testify to the vulnerability of their Arctic habitats to the changes that humans have caused. But they also create powerful climate feedback loops that are doing ever-more damage both to the Arctic, and the planet as a whole.”

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