Given last years record melt, some scientists who were predicting an ice-free arctic summers by 2013 were on record saying that those predictions may have been to conservative. Now some scientists studying the arctic ice are predicting (with roughly 50/50 odds) that North Pole may be ice-free this summer.
Arctic warming has become so dramatic that the North Pole may melt this summer, report scientists studying the effects of climate change in the field.
“We’re actually projecting this year that the North Pole may be free of ice for the first time [in history],” David Barber, of the University of Manitoba, told National Geographic News aboard the C.C.G.S. Amundsen, a Canadian research icebreaker.
This shouldn’t be much of a surprise given that after the 2007 melt the old ice (which is thicker, less saline, and much more resistant to warm weather) reached the lowest ever recorded levels.
The key issue is that since last year’s dramatic summer ice anomaly, the winter ice that formed in that newly opened water is relatively thin (around 1 meter), compared to multi-year ice (3 meters or so). This new ice formed quite close to the Pole, and with the prevailing winds and currents (which push ice from Siberia towards Greenland) is now over the Pole itself. Given that only 30% of first year ice survives the summer, the chances that there will be significant open water at the pole itself is high.
So even though some deniers claim that the arctic sea ice is doing fine, the science tells a different story.
So what does all of this mean? The fact that the North Pole could be ice free doesn’t actually mean that much.
The melt would be mostly symbolic—thicker ice, pushed against the Canadian continental shelf by weather and Earth’s rotation, would still survive the summer.
Rather this should be seen as a continuation of the rapid melting of the arctic sea ice, and that does have some serious repercussions, that go well beyond polar bears.