Arctic summer ice could vanish by 2013: expert

Thu Mar 5, 2009 3:35pm EST
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Arctic is warming up so quickly that the region's sea ice cover in summer could vanish as early as 2013, decades earlier than some had predicted, a leading polar expert said on Thursday.

Warwick Vincent, director of the Center for Northern Studies at Laval University in Quebec, said recent data on the ice cover "appear to be tracking the most pessimistic of the models", which call for an ice free summer in 2013.

The year "2013 is starting to look as though it is a lot more reasonable as a prediction. But each year we've been wrong -- each year we're finding that it's a little bit faster than expected," he told Reuters.

The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world and the sea ice cover shrank to a record low in 2007 before growing slightly in 2008.

In 2004 a major international panel forecast the cover could vanish by 2100. Last December, some experts said the summer ice could go in the next 10 or 20 years.

If the ice cover disappears, it could have major consequences. Shipping companies are already musing about short cuts through the Arctic, which also contains enormous reserves of oil and natural gas.

Vincent's scientific team has spent the last 10 summers on Ward Hunt Island, a remote spot some 2,500 miles northwest of Ottawa.

"I was astounded as to how fast the changes are taking place. The extent of open water is something that we haven't experienced in the 10 years that I've been working up there," he said after making a presentation in the Canadian Parliament.   Continued...

 
<p>The Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E), a high-resolution passive microwave Instrument on NASA&rsquo;s Aqua satellite shows the state of Arctic sea ice on September 10 in this image released September 16, 2008. REUTERS/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio/Handout</p>