No Sea Ice in the Arctic in a Decade, Scientists Warn

More bad news (I guess there isn’t so much that has been good) about the effects of climate change and rising greenhouse gas emissions on the environment. The European Space Agency‘s CryoSat-2 satellite — the world’s first specifically built to study sea ice thickness — has found that the Arctic’s sea ice is disappearing at a far faster rate than previously thought. The satellite has discovered that the Arctic ocean has lost approximately 900 cubic kilometers of summer sea ice over the past year, 50 percent more than had been thought.

By way of comparison, the Guardian cites previous figures for sea ice:

  • In 2004, the volume of sea ice in the Arctic ocean was 17,000 cubic kilometers.
  • This winter, CryoSat found that it was 14,000 cubic kilometers.

Scientists say that, if the sea ice continues to disappear at such a rate, there will be no sea ice in the summer in about a decade.

The implications are huge: With no sea ice in the summer, a rush on the region’s fish stocks, oil, minerals and sea routes could be unleashed. The Guardian describes additional effects:

Without the cap’s white brilliance to reflect sunlight back into space, the region will heat up even more than at present. As a result, ocean temperatures will rise and methane deposits on the ocean floor could melt, evaporate and bubble into the atmosphere. Scientists have recently reported evidence that methane plumes are now appearing in many areas. Methane is a particularly powerful greenhouse gas and rising levels of it in the atmosphere are only likely to accelerate global warming. And with the disappearance of sea ice around the shores of Greenland, its glaciers could melt faster and raise sea levels even more rapidly than at present.

Professor Chris Rapley of University College London also notes that, with the temperature differences between the Arctic and the equator declining, lower latitudes could see more “volatility” in the weather as was seen this year, as it is “possible that the jet stream in the upper atmosphere could become more unstable.”

The loss of the sea ice is a stark reminder of how interconnected the planet’s weather systems are, with what happens in low attitudes affecting the high latitudes and vice versa.

Sea ice has also thinned substantially in other regions north of Canada and Greenland. A decade ago, ice thickness was at around five to six meters but levels have now dropped to one to three meters.

Another UCL scientist, Seymour Laxon, emphasized caution about the results from Cryo-Sat-2 as they are only based on preliminary studies. For instance, Laxon points out that the rate of sea ice loss is less in winter when “ice is growing more rapidly than it did in the past and that this effect is compensating, partially, for the loss of summer ice.” But scientists concur that “the trend for ice coverage in Arctic is definitely downwards, particularly in summer.”

In the poem “Fire and Ice,” Robert Frost wrote that “some say the world will end in fire, / some say in ice” — but the chances for the latter seem to be fast disappearing.


Related Care2 Coverage

Pozzlies, Grizzpos? What to Call the Hybrid Bears?

Humans Cause 70 Percent of Loss of Arctic Sea Ice (Video)

Shell’s Inadequate Oil Spill Response Plans Threaten America’s Arctic



Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video


Anna M.
Anna M6 years ago

Cree Prophecy
When all the trees have been cut down,
When all the animals have been hunted,
When all the waters are polluted,
When all the air is unsafe to breathe,
Only then will you discover
you cannot eat money.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers6 years ago

If you think global warming is the only thing that can destroy the arctic, watch this. It's an icebreaker taking people to....wait for it.... The North Pole!

LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr6 years ago

Very sad.

LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr6 years ago

Very sad.

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M6 years ago

Yes, it is happening now, and Governments don't seem to give a hoot! They are just as involved in making money as the Big Corps. (probably because to the Big Boys own them), and they all aren't going to fit into one vehicle going to Mars.

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch6 years ago

Human's will not be happy until we distroy the entire eco-system, for our own greed.

Brenda M6 years ago

Just as Harper ends all funding for our northernmost arctic climate research stations. Brilliant.

Dawn F.
Dawn F6 years ago

Man is destructive. Selfish. Short sighted. Greedy. Corporations, Wall St, The Bottom Line, Shareholders, Profits, Over Consumption, Status...
There are more words but I am so disgusted with our behavior and what influences us.

Myron Scott
Myron Scott6 years ago

Will R(ogers), strikes me that your humor lacks the lightness of your namesake. I do agree with your analysis of the U.S. contribution to the destruction of nature. Still, while you may not be too rough on us, you are too easy on our species. Environmental anthropology suggests that most any human group, once it develops sufficient technology, begins to lay waste to its environment. So does contemporary reality. Just look at, e.g., the increasing production of greenhouse gases, current and projected, by China and India. As Pogo taught us decades ago, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." All of us.

Joseph Belisle
Joseph Belisle6 years ago

Has anyone coined the term "global warmfare" yet? I was having a converstation about global warming the other night and it hit me.