More Evidence That Arctic Sea Ice Will Be Gone Within Years

Arctic Sea Ice

Photo: NASA Goddard Flickr

Last week John Vidal of The Guardian reported that one researcher, Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, said the arctic sea ice will disappear within four years. This comes after the ice patch, which are a main habitat for animals like polar bears, reached a staggering minimum earlier this month.Before this year, many researchers thought that the sea ice would last through the end of the century, but the new low has made many reconsider. The increase in ice loss is drastic, Richard A. Kerr writes in a new news article in Science (behind a paywall):

… this summer’s low of 3.41 million square kilometers is 18% below the previous record of 2007 — a loss the size of Texas — and 49% below the summer low of 1979, when the satellite record begins. … it’s easy to see that ice area has been shrinking at an accelerating rate. From 1979 through 2001, ice area was declining 6.5% per decade, according to [sea ice researcher Julienne] Stroeve. Since then, it has been falling on average twice as fast.

Kerr followed up with climate researchers for their thoughts on when the ice might all be gone. Some agree with Wadhams, and some don’t. Here are their thoughts:

  • Sea ice specialist Julienne Stroeve of the National Snow and Ice Data centre at the University of Colorado, Boulder says the ice will be gone between 2030 and 2040.
  • Oceanographer Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California suggests the ice could be gone within a decade, and agrees with Wadhams that it could be gone by 2016.
  • Mark Serreze, also of the Sea Ice Data centre, has been saying since 2007 that 2030 would be a reasonable time for the ice to disappear.

In summary, most think that this year’s melt is just more proof that current climate models don’t accurately predict what will happen in the Arctic. Also, on a recent trip beyond northern Greenland Strove saw very little (only 30 per cent to 40 per cent) ice cover, something that they didn’t expect from their satellite imagery from space — which could mean the data they are working with is wrong.

All we can really say now is that the end of Arctic sea ice is coming sooner than we thought, probably within a few decades.

Why does sea ice matter? Not only does it support the Arctic wildlife, less sea ice means less reflection of sunlight and an even warmer North Pole. Some researchers suggest that this missing sea ice could lead to an exceptionally cold and snowy winter this year.

See Also: 15 Irrefutable Signs That Climate Change Is Real >

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