Scientists worry about executive order's effect on climate research

Ongoing concerns about President Trump's latest executive order and comments dismissing climate change are worrying some scientists.

In the wake of President Donald Trump's recent executive order on environmental regulations, scientists worry what that will mean for climate research.

Washington state is a center for climate research, and some of the nation's top experts on climate change are based here. Those agencies and organizations include the Western Regional Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. All of the U.S. Coast Guard's ice breakers used for polar research are based in Seattle, and the Applied Physics Lab at the University of Washington is also extensively involved in polar research.

Could that research be cut in the administration's new budget? 

"I think it would be a tragedy, really, to cut back on the research," said oceanographer Jamie Morison with the UW's APL. "We're really starting to get a better handle on what's going on, and the changes are not slowing down."

Morison, who doesn't make forecasts, but considers himself an "observationalist," is particularly concerned this season. He's watching winter ice covering the Arctic Ocean at distressingly low levels. Portions of the ocean above Norway and in the north Pacific that should be frozen over are showing open water as of March 27, and there's very little of the cold season left.

He says it's a situation worse than the winter leading into summer 2012, which Morison says saw the smallest summer ice cap on record.  

"This is a year when I'm beginning to feel we may be at some inflection point," Morison said. "Where this cascade of little effects added onto natural variability could shift the ice to a new record minimum." 

© 2017 KING-TV


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