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These images from NASAís ICESat satellite show the difference in ice cover in the Arctic between 1980 (top) and 2003 (bottom).
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NASA

Warming of the Polar Regions

Some parts of the world are warming faster than others. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as other parts of the world. The warmer temperatures have caused other changes in the Arctic such as melting ice and less places for polar bears to live. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Antarctic Peninsula is warming five times faster than other parts of the world. The Southern Ocean and Arctic Ocean are also warming.

Why are these areas near the poles warming faster? The ice and snow in these places reflect most solar energy back out to space because of its light color. As more greenhouse gases cause our planet to warm, some of this ice and snow melts, so less of the solar radiation is reflected out to space. More energy is absorbed by the Earthís surface and oceans. The added energy warms the polar regions, which causes more ice to melt and more warming.

As the atmosphere of polar regions becomes warmer, changes to the land, ice, oceans, and living things happen. Click the links below to discover more about the effects of global warming in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Last modified March 4, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.

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The Spring 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on the ocean, including articles on polar research, coral reefs, ocean acidification, and climate. Includes a gorgeous full color poster!

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