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Arctic ice gone by 2016, says polar expert

by Media Services on 21 Sep 2012
Research took place in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in summer 2010 and 2011. .. ©
If you've always had a dream of sailing the Northwest Passage, by 2016, if a leading expert is correct, you'll be able to do it easily (but not good news for polar bears). One of the world’s leading experts has predicted the Arctic sea ice will totally collapse in the summer months as early as 2016, comparable to adding 20 years of carbon emissions.

Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University first predicted the demise of Arctic ice back in 2007, when it hit its previously smallest extent.

Professor Wadhams has spent the summer on the Arctic ice, using lasers and robot submarines to get a picture of just how much is left. He's also involved in a BBC2 documentary series to be broadcast in the UK next month called 'Operation Iceberg', which features a giant ice berg twice the size of Manhattan, where Wadhams crossed paths with a curious polar bear and saw for himself the dramatic decline in sea ice.

'30 years ago there was typically about eight million square kilometres of ice left in the Arctic in the summer, and by 2007, five years ago, that had halved, it had gone down to four million,' he explains. 'And this year it's gone down below that, and it's really heading for oblivion.


'The volume of ice at the pole naturally goes up in the winter and down in the summer, but its been declining over the last 30 years. It's now at the lowest level since records began.'

This year it is another half a million square kilometres smaller, and Wadhams says this is proof we must intensify our efforts to prevent global warming or risk a 'global disaster' in the northern latitudes.

'The summer area of ice has already gone down from eight to four million square kilometres, and as it collapses, we'll lose another four million. Now four million is about one per cent of the surface area of the earth.'

Analysis shows the ice has lost 40% of its thickness since 1980, and Wadhams warns a collapse of the Arctic ice sheet would release vast quantities of methane from the submarine permafrost, driving global warming even faster.

More at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00tvcnx

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