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COLUMNS Samuel Kallagher

THE FREEZER DEFROSTS Dramatic melting of sea ice due to global warming is having a major impact on the polar region By John Vidal


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Above: The polar bear find it harder to walk on solid ground due to the dramatic increase in melting sea water caused by globalwarming. Photo by Anselmo Lastra

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full circle expect to see such dramatic changes – no one did. The ice-free season is far longer

Arctic sea ice is set to reach its lowest ever recorded extent as early as this weekend, with “dramatic changes” signalling that man-made global warming is having a major impact on the polar region. With the melt happening at an unprecedented rate of more than 100,000 sq km a day, and at least a week of further melt expected before ice begins to reform ahead of the northern winter, satellites

now. Twenty years ago it was about a month. Now it’s three months.Temperatures last week in the Arctic were 14C, which is pretty warm.”Scientists at the Danish Meteorological Institute, the Arctic Regional Ocean Observing System in Norway and others in Japan have said the ice is very close to its minimum recorded in 2007.

“Only 15 Years ago I didnt expect to see such dramatic changes” The University of Bremen, whose data

are expected to confirm the record – cur-

does not take into account ice along a

rently set in 2007 – within days.“Unless

30km coastal zone, says it sees ice extent

something really unusual happens we

below the all-time record low of 4.33m

will see the record broken in the next

sq km recorded in September 2007.Ice

few days. It might happen this weekend,

volume in the Arctic has declined dra-

almost certainly next week,” Julienne

matically over the past decade. The 2011

Stroeve, a scientist at the US National

minimum was more than 50% below that

Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boul-

of 2005. According to the Polar Science

der, Colorado, told the Guardian.

Centre at the University of Washington

“Unless something really unusual happens we will see the record broken in the next few days. It might happen this weekend, almost certainly next week” “In the last few days it has been losing 100,000 sq km a day, a record in itself for August. A storm has spread the ice pack out, opening up water, bringing up warmer water. Things are definitely changing quickly.”Because ice thickness, volume, extent and area are all measured differently, it may be a week before there is unanimous agreement among the world’s cryologists (ice experts) that 2012 is a record year. “Only 15 years ago I didn’t

it now stands at around 5,770 cubic kilometres, compared with 12,433 cu km during the 2000s and 6,494 cu km in 2011. The ice volume for 31 July 2012 was roughly 10% below the value for the same day in 2011. A new study by UK scientists suggests that 900 cu km of summer sea ice has disappeared from the Arctic Ocean over the past year. The consequences of losing the Arctic’s ice coverage for the summer months are expected to be immense. If the white sea ice no longer reflects sunlight back into space, the region can be expected to heat up even more than at present. This could lead to an increase in ocean temperatures with unknown effects on weather systems in northern latitudes.In a statement, a Greenpeace spokesman said: “The disappearing Arctic still serves as a stark warning to us all.

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