Green Right Now Reports

Scientists studying the record loss of Arctic sea ice this summer say it could be game over for the frozen North Pole within “a decade or two.”

Sea ice declined more than ever this summer, signaling that the ice cap at the North Pole may vanish within "a decade or two" according to scientists.

On Aug. 26, the extent of sea ice reaching into the Arctic Ocean reached a record low of 1.58 million square miles. As the shrinkage continues into September, when sea ice normally reaches its lowest seasonal reach, it will be 45 percent lower than normal, as measured against the average amount of sea ice from 1979 to 2000, according to NASA.

To many scientists, this extreme loss of sea ice could mean that the area has reached an irreversible tipping point, in which warmer ocean waters speed the ice melt, which in turn increases the water eroding the ice.

What will this mean, aside from the obvious loss a biosphere that has helped cool the planet? According to scientists, the loss of ice will:

  • Reduce the Earth’s ability to reflect sunlight, leading to warmer oceans, and altered marine biology.
  • Contribute to the rising oceans, which threaten coastal regions and the majority of Earth’s largest cities.
  • Larger storm systems with larger waves and winds.
  • Contribute to faster melting of the ice sheet covering Greenland, exacerbating ocean ascent.

A story in Yale Environment 360 quotes one scientist as saying the swiftness of the melt could mean an ice-free polar cap by 2020 or even before.

The article also quotes Mark Drinkwater, mission scientist for the European Space Agency’s CryoSat satellite, as saying that he and his colleagues have been alarmed by the speedy loss of Arctic sea ice over the last 5 years.

“If this rate of melting [in 2012] is sustained in 2013, we are staring down the barrel and looking at a summer Arctic which is potentially free of sea ice within this decade,” Drinkwater told Yale 360 said in an e-mail interview.