2013: Predictions for the End of Arctic Sea Ice

Bryan RDecember 12th, 2007
By: Bryan R

Early this summer, we heard reports that the famous, and equally infamous, North West Passage was finally stable and open for business. Though small ships (like little row boats) have been able to navigate the passage for quite some time, this summer was remarkable because for the first time, large container ships could take advantage of the shortcut. However, the route is still a bit tricky with storms and icebergs presenting a constant threat.

thumb-arctic-ice.jpg

The loss of Arctic sea ice

But, at least the problem of icebergs may go away sooner than we think. A new report by Dr. Wieslaw Maslowski suggests that the Artic waters could be ice-free during the summer by 2013. His report comes on the heels of a summer that had the lowest polar ice coverage to date. But Professor Maslowski stated that his report didn’t take into account this record low ice coverage and suggests that his report may, in fact, be overly conservative.

Part of the motivation behind this most recent sea ice report is that the models being used by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change) haven’t accurately predicted Arctic ice levels in the last few years. Consistently, the models suggest that far more ice should be present than actually can be found.

Another record simultaneously being set is that Artic sea ice is reforming at a breakneck pace of some 58,000 square miles a day during a number of days spread out through October and November. This is largely being attributed to the tremendous amount of open ocean space liberated by the record melting. Now that the weather has cooled, all this open space allows for rapid refreezing.

Of course, these findings are being attributed to global warming and in many ways, it demonstrates how there are still many unknown forces at work. But instead of attempting to take this uncertainty and using it as a tool to play down global warming threats, we should see it as a warning that we need to take climate change more seriously.

After all, in a BBC report, the IPCC has stated that global warming is 90% likely to be anthropogenic in nature. And now, let me interject a little personal observation. As a scientist myself who just warped up his master's degree in engineering, in research, finding an observation that is 90% duplicable, 90% explainable, and 90% consistent is a fine piece of data. Science is hard and little inconsistencies abound. And let’s not forget, we [the US] invaded Iraq on far greater uncertainty. Does anyone want to hazard a guess about the “likelihood” that Iraq had WMDs in 2003? It was surely less than 90% and we know now it to be 0%. Yet we committed anyways and threw in nearly a trillion dollars over the lifetime of the war (7.5% of the US yearly GDP). In context, the IPCC suggests that with a similar amount of funds, the US could mitigate an overwhelming amount of its carbon output.

So shouldn’t we act already?

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