CAS & WWF: Arctic Set to Become Open Sea Within a Decade as Climate Warms & Ice Decreases

LONDON, Oct. 15 (UPI) — The Arctic is set to become an open sea within a decade because of massive ice loss, new data released Thursday by the Catlin Arctic Survey and World Wildlife Fund indicates.

The survey, based in London but linked to explorers and researchers worldwide, produced evidence at a news conference the Arctic Ocean sea ice is thinning, “supporting the emerging thinking that the ocean will be largely ice-free during summer within a decade.”

The survey was conducted during winter and spring this year by a team of British experts in collaboration with the world’s pre-eminent scientific organizations.

The scientists explained the survey undertook to resolve “one of the most important environmental questions of our time: How long will the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover remain a permanent feature of our planet?”

The endeavor was led by polar explorer Pen Hadow and included explorer Ann Daniels and photographer Martin Hartley.

Scientists are still analyzing collected data at the Polar Oceans Physics Group, University of Cambridge, and are expected to produce their evidence at the climate change summit in Copenhagen in December.

But initial results already suggest that the sea ice is newer and thinner — and therefore more liable to melt — than expected.

The team trekked across the floating Arctic sea ice for 73 days, beginning on March 1, 2009.

Efforts to capture data on the thickness of the sea ice included manual drilling at regular intervals along the route and observations of morphological features, such as pressure ridges, rubble fields and open leads of water.

Six thousand separate pieces of data were generated and analysed by the Polar Ocean Physics Group.

The Catlin Arctic Survey is the latest study of Arctic sea ice thickness to become available for both scientists and government leaders who will attend the Copenhagen summit.

The survey found the entire traverse across the northern margins of the Beaufort Sea was characterized by first-year ice — significant because the region traditionally contained older, thicker multiyear ice.

“This is a key discovery because it means this area of ice is now more likely not to survive the summer melts in future and will become open water each year, bringing forward the likely date when the summer sea ice will be completely gone,” said a survey report.

It said the survey aimed to help scientists determine “with a higher degree of certainty the likely time-frame for seasonal sea ice loss.”

The study supports a new consensus among sea ice researchers that the Arctic will be ice-free in summer in about 20 years, with much of the decrease happening in the next 10 years.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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