First Arctic Ice-Free Summer Could be in 2015


Image from NASA

It's hard sometimes to make heads or tail of all these gloomy predictions -- what with the projected year always changing (just scan through our previous posts on the subject to see what I mean) -- but, for what it's worth, some scientists are now pegging it at 2015. That, according to David Barber of the University of Manitoba, will be the year when all of the region's sea ice will be gone for the first time. There will still be ice during the winter, of course, but, as Barber put it to Winnipeg Free Press' Kevin Rollason, it will "always be first-year ice".
Image from UCAR
First ice-free summer will only be the beginning
He anticipates things will only get worse from there, with countries like Russia, the United States, Norway, Denmark and Canada fighting over the Arctic's abundant supply of natural resources. Barber, who headed up the $40 million Circumpolar Flaw Lead System Study (a 9-month project in which close to 300 scientists from 15 countries participated), will present his preliminary findings next week at the International Arctic Change 2008 conference in Quebec City.

New research allowed scientists to pinpoint the date closer
While previous studies had pegged the year at anywhere between 2013 and 2030, Barber's research allowed him and his colleagues to hone in one a more precise date. Sea ice levels recovered somewhat from their 2007 lows this year, but Barber expects 2009 to be another low because the ice that grew back this summer was thin -- not the type of thick multi-year ice that could withstand the effects of global warming.

Here's Matthew's post on 2008's low sea ice extent (for a more detailed take, see NASA's sea ice minimum graphs and animations):

Scientists are reporting that the extent of sea ice in the Arctic is at the second lowest point on record. Currently ice covers 2.03 million square miles; last year's sea ice coverage, 1.59 million square miles, set the record. In the past ten years Arctic sea ice has declined 10 percent.

As Matt put it then, there's no better indication of how far we've let climate change progress off course.

More about Arctic melting
Arctic: Ice-Free by 2013?Arctic: Ice-Free by 2013?
Arctic Climate Tipping Point Happening Now! Sea Ice in Its "Death Spiral" Scientist Claims

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