Arctic Ice Shrinking Faster Than Scientists Expected
Satellite measurements released yesterday reveal that Arctic sea ice is shrinking more rapidly than expected, and an older, thicker type of ice is now at its lowest level since scientists began recording these data 30 years ago, according to The Washington Post.
Because Arctic sea ice floats partially submerged in the ocean, its decline does not immediately lead to rising sea levels. However, scientists say that the shrinking ice can lead to warmer ocean temperatures, which in turn can melt ice in Greenland and elsewhere that will contribute to higher waters. Some scientists now think that Arctic ice could vanish altogether by 2015.
Just as the North Korean missile launch on Sunday lent urgency to President Obama’s Prague speech on nuclear disarmament, this revelation adds weight to a meeting of international leaders in Washington to address polar warming issues. According to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the United States may ask the states of the Arctic Council — which includes the United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland — to take steps to reduce short-lived pollutants that contribute to polar warming, including methane and soot (black carbon).
As The Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Mary Beth Sheridan point out, yesterday’s measurements are the latest evidence against columnist George Will’s Feb. 15 assertion in the newspaper that sea ice is actually growing:
As global levels of sea ice declined last year, many experts said this was evidence of man-made global warming. Since September, however, the increase in sea ice has been the fastest change, either up or down, since 1979, when satellite record-keeping began. According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.
Looks like Will might have to get The Post’s ombudsman to defend him again.
Update: Reuters has a good video simulation of the shrinking Arctic ice (starting about a minute in), along with similarly bleak news coming out of Antarctica, where a major ice shelf is on the brink of breaking off.