ARCTIC SEA ICE MELTS TO ITS LOWEST LEVEL EVER
This article appears in today’s Independent. It reports a 22% shrinkage in minimum area over two summers, and predicts an ice free Arctic by 2030 or sooner and the extinction of the polar bear by mid century.
It reports the latest findings of US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which monitors the state of the Arctic.
‘The sea ice of the Arctic shrank to its lowest-ever level this week, shattering the previous record, set two years ago, by an enormous amount…’
‘In what will be widely seen as one of the most alarming signs yet of accelerating global warming, the summer melt-back exceeded the September 2005 low point by 22 per cent – an area of 1.2 million square kilometres – more than 385,000 square miles. This represents an area five times the size of the UK.’
"It's the biggest drop from a previous record that we've ever had and it's really quite astounding…this is really accelerating the trend."
‘By Sunday last week, it had shrunk to 1.6 million sq miles. This compares with the 2005 low point of 2.07 million sq miles.’
‘The contrast is even greater with the long-term average over the past 20 years or so. Between 1979 (when regular satellite monitoring had just started) and 2000, the long-term average minimum was 2.6 million sq miles.’
‘…now scientists are increasingly thinking the models have seriously underestimated the rate, and [the arctic becoming ice free] may happen much earlier.’
A senior NSIDC researcher said it might take only 25 years or less.
"If we were talking even two or three years ago, I'd have said the transition to an ice-free Arctic summer might be between 2070 and 2100…But we're starting to see that that is rather optimistic, and an educated guess right now would be 2030. It's something that could be within our lifetime."
"We're on strong spiral of decline; some would say a death spiral. I wouldn't go that far but we're certainly on a fast track…”
‘What the melting of the Arctic ice will do is spell doom for much of the wildlife of the region, led by polar bears, which need the ice to hunt seals. Polar bears were officially notified as threatened species last year by being included in the Red List of the World Conservation Union. Some conservationists think they could be gone by mid-century.’
The thing to note here is the trend. The Arctic fell in enduring size by 22% from of 2.07 million sq miles in 2005 to 1.6 million sq miles over just two summers. Extrapolating that very crudely on a straight line basis would actually imply an ice-free Arctic in only 8 years time – in 2013 – or earlier. But it is on an accelerating trend, suggesting even earlier still.
Comparing the current figure of 1.6 million sq miles with the long-term average between 1979 and 2000 of 2.6 million sq miles, a drop of 38%, is more conjectural. However this figure is interpreted it can only be viewed as alarming.
It is important not to overlook that the effects on climate will already be happening, and will do so with increasing force as the melt continues.
It is not the case that everything is fine until the last iceberg melts in 2013, 2030 or whenever. Also during the last few years of its existence, the Arctic will be so small that its moderating effects on weather and its influence on global circulation patterns in the oceans will have already largely been lost.
Please bear in mind that even if we were to react today with absolute decisiveness there is absolutely nothing we can do to halt global warming for a decade or more, possibly much longer. Like karma, the consequences have already been decided by our past actions and are absolutely inescapable.
The only sane response has to be a most urgent and fundamental re-evaluation of our lives, our values and our actions on an individual level, accompanied by an equally rigorous examination and realignment universally.
Please, do not prevaricate.