In September 2007, Arctic sea ice reached a record low, opening up the fabled North-West passage that runs from Greenland to Alaska.
Scientists from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) are preparing for the possibility that the vast expanse of snow at the North Pole may become a vast expanse of water, New Scientist Environment reports.
“The set-up for this summer is disturbing,” said NSIDC’s Mark Serreze.
“Thin” and “vulnerable” are how the scientists describe the Arctic sea ice.
While the ice expanded over the winter and, in March 2008, covered a greater area than it had in March 2007, the extent of the ice is only half the picture. Satellite images show that most of the Arctic ice at the moment is thin, young ice that has only been around since last autumn. And the overall trend since 1978 is on the decline.
“There is this thin first-year ice even at the North Pole at the moment,” Serreze said. “This raises the spectre – the possibility that you could become ice free at the North Pole this year.”
While the North Pole being ice free is not in itself significant, multi-year ice that doesn’t melt in the summer is not piling up as fast as Arctic ice is melting, he said.
Serreze said if we have a cooler atmospheric pattern this summer, some of the ice might be preserved.