Climate scientists know that as the earth warms under the influence of increasing greenhouse gases, the Arctic and Antarctic are going to see the biggest changes, especially at first since they are especially affected by changes in albedo due to the reduction of snow and ice at high latitudes as the earth gets warmer. Albedo is the property of how reflective something is to light–the higher the albedo, the more light is reflected. For example, fresh snow has a very high albedo of .9, or 90%, which means that when sun hits it, the light reflected can be blinding. By comparison, blacktop pavement may have an albedo of less than 0.1, or 10%, meaning most of the light that hits it is absorbed, not reflected, resulting in temperatures so high they can burn your feet if you step on it barefoot. That’s why climatologists are carefully tracking the amount of ice at the poles to see if the changes they expect are actually occurring. And they are. Using paleoclimate data like ocean cores, we can trace the extent of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean back well over 1,000 years. You can see the results in this article at While we don’t know the full effects of losing most of the long-term Arctic ice, climate models suggest that we may see different weather patterns than in the past because the albedo of the Arctic is so much different than it has been in 15 centuries.

Source: Commons Wikimedia