‘Staggering’ Arctic ice loss smashes melt records

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We are a few hundred miles from the north pole. The air temperature is -3C, the sea freezing. All around us in these foggy Arctic waters at the top of the world are floes – large and small chunks of sea ice that melt and freeze again with the seasons. 


Arne Sorensen, our Danish ice pilot, is 18 metres up in the crow’s nest of the Arctic Sunrise vessel. Visibility is just 200 metres and he inches the 1,000-tonne Greenpeace ice-breaker forward at two knots through narrow passages of clear water. The floes are piled up and compressed in fantastic shapes. Two polar bears on our port side lift their heads but resume hunting. Sorensen has sailed deep into ice at both poles for 30 years, but this voyage is different, he says. The edge of the Arctic ice cap is usually far south of where we are now at the very end of the melt season. More than 600,000 sq km more ice has melted in 2012 than ever recorded by satellites. Now the minimum extent has nearly been reached and the sea is starting to refreeze.

‘‘This is the new minimum extent of the ice cap,’’ he says – the frontline of climate change. ‘‘It is sad. I am not doubting this is related to emitting fossil fuels to a large extent. It’s sad to observe that we are capable of changing the planet to such a degree.’’

The vast polar ice cap, which regulates the Earth’s temperature, has this year retreated further and faster than anyone expected. The previous record, set in 2007, was officially broken on 27 August when satellite images averaged over five days showed the ice then extended 4.11 million sq km, a reduction of nearly 50% compared with just 40 years ago.

But since 27 August, the ice just kept melting – at nearly 40,000 sq km a day until a few days ago. Satellite pictures this weekend showed the cap covering only 3.49m sq km. This year, 11.7m sq km of ice melted, 22% more than the long-term average of 9.18m sq km.

The record minimum extent is now likely to be formally called later today by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Colorado.

Record smashed The record hasn’t just been broken, it’s been smashed to smithereens, adding weight to predictions that the Arctic may be ice-free in summer within 20 years, say British, Italian and American-based scientists on the Arctic Sunrise.

Written By: John Vidal
continue to source article at brisbanetimes.com.au

7 COMMENTS

  1. Adding salt makes ice melt. It raises the freezing temperature.  It other words, you don’t need 0 degrees C to melt ocean ice.

    The other important fact is understand is the runaway albedo effect.  When the ocean in covered in white ice, it reflects the sun’s heat away. When it is covered by open ocean, the sea water absorbs the heat, just the way a black car gets especially hot in the sun.  This means once ice melts even a little, it causes even more melting.

  2. Don’t worry!!!!  The mining and oil industries are  addressing this problem!!!!!

      http://www.savethearctic.org/?…

    A new Arctic oil rush is starting. Shell, BP, Exxon, Gazprom, Rosneft and others want to risk a devastating Arctic oil spill for only three years’ worth of oil.

      http://www.spiegel.de/internat

    09/27/2010

     Boon to Global Shipping
    Melting of Arctic Ice Opening up New Routes to Asia

     

    Thursday, September 1st 2011 – 05:29 UTC  Two major Arctic Ocean shipping routes have opened simultaneously for only the second time since satellite observation began in the 1970s, researchers say.

    http://en.mercopress.com/2011/… –

    http://cdn1.spiegel.de/images/

    http://en.mercopress.com/data/

    Alaska oil drilling. jpg – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F

  3. Some concern is being expressed by UK MPs about reckless commercialism of the Arctic, but even they are not calling for a permanent halt!

    MPs’ call to halt Arctic drilling amid safety concerns – By Roger Harrabin
    Environment analyst

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/scie

    A committee of MPs has called for a halt on drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic until safety is improved.

    They say current techniques for dealing with any spill do not inspire confidence.

    The Environmental Audit Committee fears that a spill could have caused unprecedented environmental damage.

    The MPs want to see a standard pan-Arctic spill response standard, unlimited liability for firms and an Arctic environmental sanctuary.

    But the UK has no power over the Arctic – and Arctic states are under pressure to cash in on oil and gas.

    The British government has observer status on the Arctic Council – the grouping of Arctic states that discusses Arctic issues.

    The committee wants the UK to try to use its influence to improve environmental safeguards but in evidence the MPs heard, that governance of the region was fragmented and weak.

    The BBC understands that relations between Russia and the other Arctic nations were particularly problematic.

    Arctic drilling has been happening since the 1920s, but it has become much more contentious as BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico dominated the headlines whilst firms were scrambling to expand production in the far North.

    BP’s Arctic ambitions are temporarily on hold, but Shell has reputedly invested almost $5bn in its Arctic projects. It suffered a major setback at the weekend after a huge containment dome designed to corral any Arctic spill broke down under trials. Shell abandoned drilling for the winter.

    The cost of extra safety investment may slow Arctic drilling for a while, especially as we are in a glut of cheap shale gas. But the committee heard that Lloyd’s estimated that investment in the Arctic could potentially reach $100bn or more over the next 10 years.

    The committee heard from several witnesses that safety
    standards were inadequate. Prof Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice expert from Cambridge University told them: “If they can’t cap the blowout off, or drill a relief well before the winter, the blowout will operate right through the winter months, with oil and gas coming up under the ice.

    “The oil coats the bottom of the ice, and if the ice is
    moving, which is often at about 10km a day, it acts like a great sheet of moving blotting paper, absorbing the oil coming up under it, and carrying it away downstream.

    http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media

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