Sunday, August 10, 2008
Coming Soon - an Ice Free North Pole
We're getting accustomed to brief intervals where the Arctic Ocean is open for navigation, but the North Pole itself? Until recently those pesky, alarmist scientists were warning that the North Pole could be ice free in as little as 60-years. Now they're predicting that may be just five years off.
From The Guardian:
What really unsettles scientists, however, is their inability to forecast precisely what is happening in the Arctic, the part of the world most vulnerable to the effects of global warming. 'When we did the first climate change computer models, we thought the Arctic's summer ice cover would last until around 2070,' said Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University. 'It is now clear we did not understand how thin the ice cap had already become - for Arctic ice cover has since been disappearing at ever increasing rates. Every few years we have to revise our estimates downwards. Now the most detailed computer models suggest the Arctic's summer ice is going to last for only a few more years - and given what we have seen happen last week, I think they are probably correct.'
The most important of these computer studies of ice cover was carried out a few months ago by Professor Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Using US navy supercomputers, his team produced a forecast which indicated that by 2013 there will be no ice in the Arctic - other than a few outcrops on islands near Greenland and Canada - between mid-July and mid-September.
'It does not really matter whether 2007 or 2008 is the worst year on record for Arctic ice,' Maslowski said. 'The crucial point is that ice is clearly not building up enough over winter to restore cover and that when you combine current estimates of ice thickness with the extent of the ice cap, you get a very clear indication that the Arctic is going to be ice-free in summer in five years. And when that happens, there will be consequences.'
This point was backed by Mark Serreze [of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado]. 'The trouble is that sea ice is now disappearing from the Arctic faster than our ability to develop new computer models and to understand what is happening there. We always knew it would be the first region on Earth to feel the impact of climate change, but not at anything like this speed. What is happening now indicates that global warming is occurring far earlier than any of us expected."