Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer as early as 2010
QUEBEC — The Arctic Ocean could be free of ice in the summer as soon as 2010 or 2015 — something that hasn’t happened for more than a million years, according to a leading polar researcher.
Louis Fortier, scientific director of ArcticNet, a Canadian research network, said the sea ice is melting faster than predicted by models created by international teams of scientists, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
They had forecast the Arctic Ocean could be free of summer ice as early as 2050. But Fortier told an international conference on defence and security in Quebec City yesterday that the worst-case scenarios are becoming reality.
“The frightening models we didn’t even dare to talk about before are now proving to be true,” Fortier told CanWest News Service, referring to computer models that take into account the thinning of the sea ice and the warming from the albedo effect — the Earth is absorbing more energy as the sea ice melts.
According to these models, there will be no sea ice left in the summer in the Arctic Ocean somewhere between 2010 and 2015.
“And it’s probably going to happen even faster than that,” said Fortier, who leads an international team of researchers in the Arctic looking for clues to climate change.
The Arctic, considered to be the barometer of global climate change, is warming faster than expected and this could cause global average temperatures to rise still more.
Fortier stressed that 90,000 square metres of sea ice melted in 2007, a spectacular figure that was expected to be seen in only 15 to 20 years.
“The most unbelievable thing is the total absence of ice in straits where you never thought you would ever be able to navigate. The changes are not progressive anymore, they are dramatic,” he said.
The great melting, uncovering vast stretches of the Arctic Ocean, will open up the Northwest Passage as a shortcut to Asia, something explorers have been dreaming about since Christopher Columbus reached America.
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