Q. Dear Twig: Did you hear that the North Pole is melting?
A.: Yes. Yes, I did. The news, as I've read it, is this: Scientists say that the polar ice cap, the frozen Arctic Ocean water, that normally covers the North Pole is melting. The ice is getting thinner. It's covering less and less area. It's like, in that way, my Uncle Bark's hair. Ha! ("And your readership. Ha!"— U.B.)
The Arctic ice cap normally grows in winter and shrinks in summer. But starting in the 1950s, the smallest size the cap gets in summer has gotten even smaller. (The minimum has gotten ... minimumer.) And starting in the 1970s, the biggest size the cap gets in winter has likewise gotten smaller, too.
The shrinkage has continued.
Recently, a U.S. Army scientist told the Reuters news service this: that just last summer, "for the first time in recorded history, ships sailed across the Arctic Ocean in water that had been part of the polar ice cap."
Next week: What's behind it?
P.S. Last summer's Arctic ice cap hit a new record low, shattering the old record by 23 percent.
Notes: Sources included the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, http://nsidc.org/news/press/2007_seaiceminimum/20071001_pressrelease.html; the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/research/climate/highlights/index.html#seaice; the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, http://www.pewclimate.org/impacts/icecap; and "In 2007, Polar Ice Cap Vanished at Record Clip" by Amanda Beck, Reuters, Dec. 13, 2007, http://uk.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUKWRI31236820071213.
"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," published by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences - specifically, by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, the research and outreach arms, respectively, of the College - is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. It's written at a 4th-grade reading level. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, firstname.lastname@example.org, (330) 263-3776. Online at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science.