In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report in 2007, scientists thought it likely that the Arctic would be ice-free in the summer months around the year 2100. After a significantly low sea ice extent in 2007, the current record, scientists reevaluated the likelihood of an ice-free summer in the Arctic. Currently scientists predict that the Arctic will most likely be devoid of ice in the summer by around 2030. However, 2012 may prove the need for further reevaluations of the Arctic.
In recent weeks scientists have indicated that the 2007 record low sea ice extent in the Arctic would likely be surpassed this year. Now scientists have indicated that the Arctic ice extent is now officially at a record low weeks before the usual seasonal low in September. Sea ice extent as of August 26 was at 1.58 square miles, below the 1.61 million square miles record low recorded on September 18, 2007.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, six of the lowest Arctic ice levels since records began have occurred in the last six years. A thirteen percent reduction in overall Arctic sea ice extent in the summer has been shown each decade in the last thirty years. Now some scientists are indicating that the Arctic may be ice free in the summer as early as 2015, a prediction that was laughed off just years ago.
Scientists indicated that the record low is in part due to the Arctic ice becoming thinner each year compared to historic data. Thinner ice is more susceptible to melting and is increasingly prevalent in the Arctic as perennial ice is replaced with the sub-par year to year ice. This type of ice makes it much more likely that the Arctic will be ice free in the summer.
Senior research scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Joey Comiso, stated: “Unlike 2007, temperatures were not unusually warm in the Arctic this year. We are losing the thick component of the ice cover. And if you lose [the thickness], the ice in the summer becomes very vulnerable.”
Research in the Arctic has indicated that the thickness and subsequently the volume of the sea ice in the Arctic has greatly diminished since the 1980s. Some studies have indicated that the Arctic has seen 40 percent or more loss in thickness since. Also, the volume during the summer months is only 30 percent or less than in the 1980s. Indicators such as this make it more likely that the Arctic will be ice free in the summer sooner than many predictions have indicated.
In addition, not only does great melting of Arctic ice signal climate change but it is also likely to contribute to a warming world. The loss of ice increases the amount of ocean exposed to the sun and increases the heat attained and stored by the Arctic Ocean. The loss of ice also decreases the amount of light reflected back to space, which is one of the pivotal roles the Arctic plays in keeping the Earth cool.