North Pole Could be Ice-free by 2016

Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, one of the world’s leading ice experts, has predicted the final collapse of Arctic sea ice in the summer of 2016.  In an email to the British newspaper the Guardian he calls for “urgent” consideration of new ideas to reduce global temperatures.

Wadhams, whose work is being financed by the US Office of Naval Research, has been researching the ice in artic waters for more than forty years. In 1996 he discovered that the North Pole ice had thinned by 40% since 1970.  Up and till now, all of Waldhams predictions have been proven correct.

Wadhams has been stressing  for years that the thickness and the condition of the North Pole ice can give more clues than satellite images of the ice from above.  In an email to the Guardian he writes about his findings: ” The main cause  of the ice melting is simply global warming: As the climate has warmed there has been less ice growth during the winter and more ice melt during the summer. At first this didn’t get noticed. The summer ice limits slowly shrank back, at a rate which suggested that the ice would last another 50 years or so. But in the end the summer melt overtook the winter growth such that the entire ice sheet melts or breaks up during the summer months.  This collapse, I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates”.

Wadhams fears the implications are “terrible”:  “As the sea ice retreats in summer the ocean warms up (to 7C in 2011) and this warms the seabed too. The continental shelves of the Arctic are composed of offshore permafrost, frozen sediment left over from the last ice age. As the water warms the permafrost melts and releases huge quantities of trapped methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas so this will give a big boost to global warming.”

The extent of sea ice on the Arctic Ocean has shrunk this summer to it’s smallest amount since satellite records began in the 1970s, eclipsing a 2007 low.  The melt is part of a long-term retreat blamed, also by a U.N. panel, on man-made global warming, caused by the use of fossil fuels. The melting ice has opened new shipping routes between Atlantic and Pacific ports, and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) say that along with oil spills and shipwrecks, soot from ships could be a significant threat to the region.  The Arctic’s abundant supplies of oil, gas and minerals will, thanks to the melting ice, become newly accessible and it won’t be long before nations and corporations start competing for the area’s riches,

Waldhams finds it disturbing that politicians and the public are still attuned to the  threat of climate change. “CO2 levels are rising at a faster than exponential rate, and yet politicians only want to take utterly trivial steps such as banning plastic bags and building a few windfarms,” he said.

Via: www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/17/arctic-collapse-sea-ice

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