Arctic ice cap melting 30 years early

Article from: Reuters

From correspondents in Washington

May 02, 2007 05:43am

THE Arctic ice cap is melting much faster than expected and is now about 30 years ahead of predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a US ice expert said overnight.

This means the ocean at the top of the world could be free or nearly free of summer ice by 2020, three decades sooner than the global panel's gloomiest forecast of 2050.

No ice on the Arctic Ocean during summer would be a major spur to global warming, said Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Centre in Colorado.

"Right now ... the Arctic helps keep the Earth cool," Mr Scambos said. "Without that Arctic ice, or with much less of it, the Earth will warm much faster."

That is because the ice reflects light and heat; when it is gone, the much darker land or sea will absorb more light and heat, making it more difficult for the planet to cool down, even in winter, he said.

Mr Scambos and co-authors of the study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, used satellite data and visual confirmation of Arctic ice to reach their conclusions, a far different picture from that obtained from computer models used by the scientists of the intergovernmental panel.

"The IPCC report was very careful, very thorough and cautious, so they erred on the side of what would certainly occur as opposed to what might occur," Mr Scambos said.

The wide possibility of what might occur included a much later melt up north, or a much earlier one, Mr Scambos said.

"It appears we're on pace about 30 years earlier than expected to reach a state where we don't have sea ice or at least not very much in late summer in the Arctic Ocean," he said.

He discounted the notion that the sharp warming trend in the Arctic might be due to natural climate cycles.

"There aren't many periods in history that are this dramatic in terms of natural variability," Mr Scambos said.

He said he had no doubt that this was caused in large part by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which he said was the only thing capable of changing Earth on such a large scale over so many latitudes.

Asked what could fix the problem - the topic of a new report by the intergovernmental panel to be released on Saturday in Bangkok - Mr Scambos said a large volcanic eruption might hold Arctic ice melting at bay for a few years.

But he saw a continuing warm-up as inevitable in the coming decades.

"Long term and for the next 50 years, I think even the new report will agree that we're in for quite a bit of warming," Mr Scambos said.

"We just barely now, I think, have enough time and enough collective will to be able to get through this century in good shape, but it means we have to start acting now and in a big way."



Australia Day - Life Saving Ducks

Advertisement

Love & Relationships - Find a date near you on Match.com - # 1 Online Dating site Worldwide.
 
Free Home Loan Comparison Buying a new house; find the best rates on ratesonline.com.au
 
Overflowing with benefits Experience life the Platinum Way With American Express Platinum.
 
$50 Bonus Prepaid Credit Buy Prepaid Online at Virgin Mobile and get $50 bonus Prepaid Credit
 
Low Fee and $50 credit Get a Credit Card with a credit bonus.
 
Win a Ute with IceBreak Race in and win the new Holden SS V_Series Ute. Click here for details.
 

Tools