Sunday, June 29, 2008

North Pole Ice Melting Faster than Expected

The scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado say the North Pole could be ice-free for a time this summer. The chances are roughly 50-50, actually: Specific weather patterns will determine whether the ice cover melts completely.

What does this mean for us down here? The Data Center's senior research scientist, Mark Serreze, explained that while the loss of ice at the North Pole is symbolic at this point, the fact that we're losing ice this soon to global warming is "astounding" to him. Scientists had predicted this event closer to 2030. He told CNN:

"It's not cyclical at this point. I think we understand the physics behind this pretty well. We've known for at least 30 years, from our earliest climate models, that it's the Arctic where we'd see the first signs of global warming...It's a situation where we hate to say we told you so, but we told you so."

While cutting global warming emissions now will help to slow more of the effects, our actions have committed us to some warming:

"If we had a few cold years in a row, we could put sort of a temporary damper on it, but I think at this point going to an ice-free Arctic Ocean is inevitable. I don't think we can stop that now."
Photo credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

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