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9.30.2005

2005 Arctic Summer Ice Melt - Largest On Record

"If we look at the changes in the Arctic we've been talking about, we've just been flabbergasted at the rapidity of the changes." - Mark Serreze, Ph.D., National Snow and Ice Data Center


September 29, 2005 Boulder, Colorado - One increasingly important subject for everyone on Earth is global warming and the consequence of more intense storms in some regions, growing drought in others and the rapid melting of ice from mountain glaciers and the Antarctic which cause sea level rise.

Now this week comes news from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, that the Arctic ice which floats at the North Pole melted to its smallest size - ever! - in records going back for at least a century.

Since the big north polar cap ice floats, its melting does not contribute to sea level rise. But why it's melting so much is directly linked to global warming and an annual trend toward warmer temperatures in the Arctic. Permafrost is melting, roads are buckling, houses are sinking and polar bears are faced with extinction, since those mighty animals work from the ice to feed off fish and seals. This summer of 2005, so much Arctic ice melted that ships could travel through both the North East and North West passages. Based on the hard data of water and air temperatures that continue to rise each summer, current computer models for the Arctic indicate that there will be no ice at all during Arctic summers in another sixty years, around 2070. Some scientists even wonder if the Arctic ice melt is happening so rapidly that the hands on the computer clock have to be moved back, maybe to only three or four decades from now.

View entire interview with Mark Serreze, Ph.D here

Interesting excerpt from the interview:

More Dark Water Increases Heating and Ice Melt

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE MELTING OF THE ICE, WHICH IS WHITE, THAT EXACERBATES THE WARMING?

Sea ice is a very reflective white which means it reflects most of the sun's energy right back to space. What has been happening is a reduction in the area of Arctic Ocean covered by sea ice, so that exposes areas of open ocean ­ dark colored open ocean ­ instead of white ice. Now in those dark ocean areas, those can absorb a great deal of the sun's energy. We start to have a situation where we absorb more sun energy in the ocean. The oceans start to heat up. If the oceans heat up, that means it's harder to grow ice the following fall and winter. So the ice we get the next spring and summer tends to be thinner and not as much of it. That means more can disappear that next summer, leaving more open, dark water, meaning more absorption of heat, more ice melts and so on. A vicious cycle, if you will, but something we call a positive feedback.

This is one of the processes we think is starting to kick in the Arctic that helps us explain some of these big reductions in the Arctic sea ice.