Arctic cap on course for record melt: US scientists
August 22, 2012 by Shaun Tandon
The Arctic ice cap is melting at a startlingly rapid rate and may shrink to its smallest-ever level within weeks as the planet's temperatures rise, US scientists said Tuesday.
Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder said that the summer ice in the Arctic was already nearing its lowest level recorded, even though the summer melt season is not yet over.
"The numbers are coming in and we are looking at them with a sense of amazement," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the university.
"If the melt were to just suddenly stop today, we would be at the third lowest in the satellite record. We've still got another two weeks of melt to go, so I think we're very likely to set a new record," he told AFP.
The previous record was set in 2007 when the ice cap shrunk to 4.25 million square kilometers (1.64 million square miles), stunning scientists who had not forecast such a drastic melt so soon.
The Colorado-based center said that one potential factor could be an Arctic cyclone earlier this month. However, Serreze played down the effects of the cyclone and said that this year's melt was all the more remarkable because of the lack of special weather factors seen in 2007.
Serreze said that the extensive melt was in line with the effects of global warming, with the ice being hit by a double whammy of rising temperatures in the atmosphere and warmer oceans.
"The ice now is so thin in the spring just because of the general pattern of warming that large parts of the pack ice just can't survive the summer melt season anymore," he said.