I’ve covered the fate of the Arctic sea-ice for almost a year now, watching as report after report came out spelling doom for our northern pole. At the beginning of September last year I wrote a post called “Summer Ice to Disappear by 2030,” in which I quoted Dr. Mark Serreze, an Arctic specialist at the Boulder University of Colorado National Snow and Ice Data Center, saying that “It’s amazing. It’s simply fallen off a cliff and we’re still losing ice.”
Some near 10 months later, Dr. Serreze has predicted that, unless weather and ocean conditions change, it does not look like there will be any summer ice in the Arctic this year.
“A large area at the North Pole and surrounding the North Pole is first-year ice,” Serreze said. “That’s the stuff that tends to melt out in the summer because it’s thin,” and thus, doesn’t have the strength to stand up to the increased temperatures. And so far, the preliminary evidence from a NASA satellite is showing that the ice surrounding the North Pole is “considerably thinner” than scientists have seen previously. This, according to NASA ice scientist Jay Zwally, who believes there is slightly less than a 50/50 chance that the North Pole will be ice free.
We know that last year was a record year for ice melt across the entirety of the Arctic, and as such, the young ice that sprung up between the end of 07’s summer and 08’s summer will be young, and more susceptible to melting.
With a more conservative estimate, Cecilia Bitz at the University of Washington puts the odds of an Arctic without ice at 1 in 4. However, even though this is half what Serreze is predicting, it is still much worse than many climate models had been predicting, which was 1 in 70 sometime in the next decade.
Though there is nothing scientifically significant about the North Pole being ice free, it does hold a symbolic significance. It caused such massive controversy last year when the Northwest Passage opened up that people begun to pay closer attention to it. And, as Seth Borenstein of the AP notes, it is where Santa Claus lives.