OMG!!! North Pole: Could be Ice-Free this Year, But Some Hope Left

Submitted by Charles Frost on Mon, 04/28/2008 - 18:57.

by Jeremy Elton Jacquot, Los Angeles on 04.28.08

Good Video From The Article Here:

Let's start off this post with another round of good/bad news, shall we? The bad: According to new data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the North Pole could become ice-free this summer because of a record low in ice formation. The good news: Its ice expanded at a greater rate this winter than it did in 2007, and there is the possibility that a milder, more cyclonic atmospheric pattern this summer could help preserve it.

first year ice
Image courtesy of the NSDIC

As April reported last month -- and as the New Scientist's Catherine Brahic reports here -- the odds certainly aren't stacked in favor of the North Pole retaining its slivers of ice. Indeed, many scientists are expecting that the region, which will likely become ice-free within the next few months, could become a new hub for shipping activities and tourism. Or, as the NSIDC's Mark Serreze puts it: "The set-up for this summer is disturbing."

It wasn't too long ago that we reported that the Northwest Passage had opened up for business. Though the Arctic's ice recovered and actually expanded over the winter -- now covering an area greater than it did last March -- most of it is thin, young ice, which is much more vulnerable to rising temperatures. Also, keep in mind that Arctic ice typically reaches its maximum in March, and that the trend since 1978 has been less than rosy -- with the ice decreasing by roughly 44,000 square kilometers per year on average.

What scientists are most concerned about is not the possibility that the North Pole could become ice-free, but the fact that multi-year ice (the ice that doesn't melt during the summer) is not keeping up with the Arctic ice melting trend. Under typical circumstances, a portion of the newly formed, or first year, ice melts during the ensuing summer; in 2007, however, almost all of it was gone. Furthermore, the Arctic oscillation, an atmospheric event that causes strong winds in the region, threatens to push what multi-year ice remains out -- aggravating an already serious problem.

As mentioned earlier, the only (meager) solace Serreze offered was the possibility that a cooler atmospheric pattern this summer could save some of the first year ice. We'll be keeping our fingers crossed.

Via ::New Scientist: North Pole could be ice free in 2008 (news website)

See also: ::North Pole New Shipping, Tourism Destination, ::Northwest Passage All But Ice-Free


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The extraordinary Retreat of Arctic Ocean Sea Ice, 2007

Yesterday we got the news that melting arctic ice increases permafrost thawing up to 900 miles inland. In case anyone would like an short animation of annual sea ice minimum=how much melting took place last year, check out this clip from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. Their Source - via :: The New York Times

50/50 Bet - Something To Tell Your Grandchildren?

North Pole could be ice-free this summer, scientists say

(CNN) --  The North Pole may be briefly ice-free by September as global warming melts away Arctic sea ice, according to scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

"We kind of have an informal betting pool going around in our center and that betting pool is 'does the North Pole melt out this summer?' and it may well," said the center's senior research scientist, Mark Serreze.

It's a 50-50 bet that the thin Arctic sea ice, which was frozen in autumn, will completely melt away at the geographic North Pole, Serreze said.

The ice retreated to a record level in September when the Northwest Passage, the sea route through the Arctic Ocean, opened briefly for the first time in recorded history.

"What we've seen through the past few decades is the Arctic sea ice cover is becoming thinner and thinner as the system warms up," Serreze said.

Specific weather patterns will determine whether the North Pole's ice cover melts completely this summer, he said.

"Last year, we had sort of a perfect weather pattern to get rid of ice to open up that Northwest Passage," Serreze said. "This year, a different pattern can set up. so maybe we'll preserve some ice there. We're in a wait-and-see mode right now. We'll see what happens."

The brief lack of ice at the top of the globe will not bring any immediate consequences, he said.

"From the viewpoint of the science, the North Pole is just another point in the globe, but it does have this symbolic meaning," Serreze said. "There's supposed to be ice at the North Pole. The fact that we may not have any by the end of this summer could be quite a symbolic change."

Serreze said it's "just another indicator of the disappearing Arctic sea ice cover" but that it is happening so soon is "just astounding to me."

"Five years ago, to think that we'd even be talking about the possibility of the North Pole melting out in the summer, I would have never thought it," he said.

The melting, however, has been long seen as inevitable, he said.

"If you talked to me or other scientists just a few years ago, we were saying that we might lose all or most of the summer sea ice cover by anywhere from 2050 to 2100," Serreze said. "Then, recently, we kind of revised those estimates, maybe as early as 2030. Now, there's people out there saying it might be even before that. So, things are happening pretty quick up there."

Serreze said those who suggest that the Arctic meltdown is just part of a historic cycle are wrong.

"It's not cyclical at this point. I think we understand the physics behind this pretty well," he said. "We've known for at least 30 years, from our earliest climate models, that it's the Arctic where we'd see the first signs of global warming.

"It's a situation where we hate to say we told you so, but we told you so," he said.

Serreze said the Arctic sea ice will not be the same for decades.

"If we had a few cold years in a row, we could put sort of a temporary damper on it, but I think at this point going to an ice-free Arctic Ocean is inevitable," he said. "I don't think we can stop that now."

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions could "cool things down a bit," he said.

"It would recover fairly quickly, but it's just not going to happen for a while," he said. "I think we're committed at this point."

There are some positive aspects to the ice melting, he said. Ships could use the Northwest Passage to save time and energy by no longer having to travel through the Panama Canal or around Cape Horn."There's also, or course, oil at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean," he said. "Now, the irony of that is kind of clear, but the fact that we are opening up the Arctic Ocean does make it more accessible."

The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center Web site,, publishes a near-real-time image of the Arctic sea ice cover.