March 5, 2009

Arctic Ice to vanish by 2013

By Ai Lung Nguyen - March 2009.

ENVIRONMENT - The Arctic is warming up so quickly that the region's sea ice cover could vanish as early as summer 2013, decades earlier than previously predicted, says scientist Warwick Vincent.

Vincent, director of the Centre for Northern Studies at Laval University in Quebec, said recent data on the ice cover "appear to be tracking the most pessimistic of the models", which indicate an ice free summer in 2013.

"2013 is starting to look as though it is a lot more reasonable as a prediction. But each year we've been wrong – each year we're finding that it's a little bit faster than expected," says Vincent. "We're losing, irreversibly, major features of the Canadian ice scape and that suggests that these more pessimistic models are really much closer to reality."

The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world and the sea ice cover shrank to a record low in 2007 before growing slightly in 2008. But at the same time 2008 also record warm weather in parts of the arctic, with temperatures rising to 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to the usual 5 degrees. In 2008 five ice shelves along Ellesmere Island in Canada's Far North, ice which is more than 4,000 years old, shrunk by 23% according to satellite analysis.

In 2004 a major international panel forecast the ice could vanish by 2100. In December 2008 some experts said the summer ice could last until 2020 or 2030.

When the ice disappears shipping companies will be able to make short cuts through the Canadian and Russian Arctic, which also contains enormous reserves of oil and natural gas.

"I was astounded as to how fast the changes are taking place. The extent of open water is something that we haven't experienced in the 10 years that I've been working up there," Vincent said after making a presentation in the Canadian Parliament.

Its now not a question of whether the ice will melt, it a question of when.

Its also a question of what should we do about it? Ice melting in Greenland and the Antarctic could raise sea levels dramatically by 7 meters (22 feet) or more and flood many of the world's port cities.

See Also:
Rising Sea Levels
Climate Change will effect Economy
Ancient ice shelf snaps free from Canada
Global Warming in Russia & the North Atlantic
7 Environmental Problems That Are Worse Than We Thought
The Theory of Rapid Climate Change

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