Arctic is on track to be free of sea ice this year or next for the
first time in more than 100,000 years, a leading scientist has
satellite data produced by the US National Snow & Ice Data
Centre shows there were just over 11.1
million square kilometres of sea ice on
1 June this year, compared to the average for the last 30 years of
nearly 12.7 million square kilometres.
difference – more than 1.5 million square kilometres – is about
the same size as about six United Kingdoms.
Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge
University, told the Independent that
the latest figures largely bore out a controversial prediction he
made four years ago.
prediction remains that the Arctic ice may well disappear, that is,
have an area of less than one million square kilometres for
September of this year,” he said.
if the ice doesn’t completely disappear, it is very likely that
this will be a record low year. I’m convinced it will be less
than 3.4 million square kilometres [the current record low].
think there’s a reasonable chance it could get down to a million
this year and if it doesn’t do it this year, it will do it next
free means the central part of the Arctic and the North Pole is ice
of the remaining ice within the Arctic Circle would be trapped among
the myriad of islands along Canada’s north coast.
last time the Arctic was clear of ice is believed to be about 100,000
to 120,000 years ago.
rapid warming of the polar region has been linked with extreme
weather events such as “bomb cyclones”, flooding in the UK and
out-of-season tornadoes in the United States.
the sea ice off the north coast of Russia, which normally insulates
the water below to keep it cool, is no longer present for much of the
year, allowing the sea to get significantly warmer than before.
of Antarctic ice has soared by 75 per cent in just 10 years
have monitored greenhouse gas methane – once frozen on the sea bed
– bubbling up to the surface at an alarming rate.
to one study published in the journal Nature by Professor Wadhams and
others, this could produce an average rise in global temperature of
0.6 degrees Celsius in just five years.
would be a very, very serious upward jerk to global warming,”
Professor Wadhams said, saying the prospect was “frightening”.
sea ice also means the surface of the Earth is darker, so it absorbs
more of the sun’s energy.
warming: Rapidly increasing temperatures are 'possibly catastrophic'
for planet, climate scientist warns
the sea ice retreats, it changes the whole situation. People are
right to be concerned about the sea ice retreat and disappearance
mainly because of all these other feedbacks,” Professor Wadhams
ice is usually at its lowest in September and starts to build again
when the winter sets in.
Peter Gleick, a leading climatologist, said he had “no idea” if
Professor Wadhams’ prediction was correct.
he added: “If it's wrong, this kind of projection leads to climate
sceptics and deniers to criticize the entire community.”
Dr Gleick said Professor Wadhams was right to sound a warning about
the rising temperatures in the region, saying it was “extraordinarily
disturbing even in a world of disturbing news about accelerating
ice-free - and even an ice-reduced - Arctic is leading to global
impacts on weather and ecosystems, and most importantly, that the
changes in the Arctic presage dramatic fundamental changes in climate
throughout the globe,” he said.
on a runaway train, scientists are blowing the whistle, but
politicians are still shovelling coal into the engine.”
Jennifer Francis, of Rutgers University, says ‘We are definitely
looking at a very unusual situation up in the Arctic’ (Wolfgang
Jennifer Francis, of Rutgers University in the US, who has studied
the effect of the Arctic on the weather in the rest of the northern
hemisphere, was also sceptical about Professor Wadhams' prediction,
saying it was “highly unlikely” to come true this year.
said she thought this would not happen until sometime between 2030
Professor Francis stressed: “We are definitely looking at a very
unusual situation up in the Arctic.
ice is very low and there have been record-breaking low amounts of
ice in January, February, March, April and now May, so this is very