A research team from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, part of the University of Colorado at Boulder published their report of the annual 'Arctic Ice Minimum' last week which tells the extent of the summer melting. It broke the previous record set in '05, but it did so by a huge margin. The area that melted this year is 26% more than the '05 record.
Using satellite images, NASA has put together a short slide show of the ice melting from Jan. 1 to Sept. 16, 2007. It can be found on the below link to NASA. (1)
Waleed Abdalati, head of Goddard's Cryospheric Sciences Branch said ".... this year, the amount of ice is so far below that of previous years that it really is cause for concern. The trend in decreasing ice cover seems to be getting stronger and stronger as time goes on."
This information got some coverage in US corporate media, but another report of research from a worldwide group of scientists did not.
'DRAMATIC' CHANGE IN THICKNESS ALSO
Fifty scientists from Europe, USA, Japan, and China have been in the Arctic for the past three months gathering data on the ice and the environment. In 2001 the ice averaged six feet in thickness. This year large areas of the ice are only three feet thick. (2)
"The ice cover in the North Polar Sea is dwindling, the ocean and the atmosphere are becoming steadily warmer, the ocean currents are changing" said chief scientist Dr Ursula Schauer, from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. "We are in the midst of a phase of dramatic change in the Arctic...." she said.
"So the area of the ice is diminishing at an accelerated speed, and the ice is now only half as thick as '01. What does that mean to me? I didn't see much of a change in weather this year ... maybe a few more floods and such. But I don't get it! WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? It seems to me that I've got more important things to think about than a 1.4 degree F temperature rise and some ice melting at the poles."
Well, the Arctic Ice does not contribute to rising sea levels since it is floating in the ocean. But, and this is a huge distinction, it is fresh water - as opposed to salt water. And since fresh water is not as dense as salt water, it has the power to slow the thermohaline currents that distribute heat from the tropics to the northern latitudes.
And it has been shown that many times in the past two million years the climate has snapped into ice age conditions within as little as ten years instead of the thousand year transition that we were all taught in elementary school. If the climate hits that tipping point and the growing season is shortened to six or eight weeks a year, there will be global famine. That is a very real possibility and an extremely frightening one at that.
1) 'Remarkable' Drop in Arctic Sea Ice Raises Questions, 9/25/07
2) Sea Ice Is Getting Thinner, 9/14/07
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