Adding to many recent big signs of a warming climate, the Arctic sea ice levels are on pace to hit a record low by September of this year.
New satellite data shows that sea ice levels will fall below the previously set record low in 2007 and that this record will be broken weeks before the ice is expected to stop melting.
Scientists at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center published their most recent report based on this information, where they highlighted the fact that Arctic sea ice melt has been “rapid” since late June.
Prof Seymour Laxon, professor of climate physics at University College London, said that he was not surprised that 2012 was set to deliver a record minimum, telling BBC News, “We got very close to a record minimum last year.”
Prof. Laxon also pointed out that this new data will likely impact the predictions previously made regarding a time when the Arctic would be free of sea ice completely during summer months.
This is where the data starts to reflect some unnerving realities. Previous reports had led scientists to believe that the Arctic might be free of sea ice during summer by 2100. After the record low in 2007, they had to revise that prediction to 2030-2040. Based on the data announced this month, it now looks like this will happen by next summer.
This means that a global prediction centered around climate change just went from “not in my lifetime” to next year.
While the ultimate consequences of an Arctic free from sea ice can’t be completely outlined, we do know that Arctic sea ice is vitally important for controlling the temperature of our polar regions and for our overall global climate system.
Currently, the white surface of the ice acts as a reflective barrier, shielding much of the Arctic ocean from the sun’s rays. With that barrier gone, more of the open water will be exposed, allowing the sun’s heat to be absorbed and ultimately causing the ocean temperature to rise.
This is the type of scientific data that just can’t be ignored.
Shutterstock.com | Jan Martin Will