As dramatic as the melting of Arctic sea ice was in the summer of 2007, there's a 59% chance 2008 will see even more melting, according to calculations at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where some of the nation's top Arctic scientists work. The melting could be so extreme that open water is seen at the North Pole, and the Northwest Passage opens to shipping.
The reason: It's still getting warmer, and the ice is thinner and more susceptible.
The melting season is only beginning and will continue into September in concert with the Arctic summer. Already this decade, 2005 set a new record for melting Arctic sea ice, only to see the record shattered in 2007, when 460,000 more square miles of ice melted and the fabled Northwest Passage became navigable. Overall, sea ice is down 10% this decade, and projections for further decline are the chief reason polar bears and other Arctic creatures are considered by many to be threatened.
Overall, 63% of the Arctic ice cover is younger than average, and only 2% is older than average. UC Colorado climate researcher Sheldon Drobot called the melting of Arctic sea ice "one of the most compelling and obvious signs of climate change." There's a three in five chance that 2008 will set a new record for melting.
"It also is quite possible that extensive ice-free conditions could develop at or near the North Pole," said aerospace engineering research professor Jim Maslanik.
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