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Grim new prediction: Arctic sea ice could disappear by 2015

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
Photo by Jessica K. Robertson, U.S. Geological Survey

New research from Cambridge University predicts that the North Pole could be ice-free in just a few years' time, all gone by the summer of 2015, according to various news reports this week.

Updated climate models indicate that Arctic sea ice is melting away so fast -- and that remaining ice volume is so thin -- that "it is going to bring us to zero sum very quickly. 2015 is a very serious prediction and I think I am pretty much persuaded that that's when it will happen," Cambridge professor Peter Wadhams said in an interview with The Telegraph.

Wadhams, described as one of the U.K's leading polar ocean physicists, studied controversial data on ice volume collected by a U.S. scientist at the American Naval Postgraduate School, which diverges from other research that's been used in previous predictions about when the Arctic Ocean will become ice-free during summer months.

The new pessimism about sea ice comes as climate scientists focus more closely on ice thickness, in relation to extent, or cover, according to an article in Barents Observer:

Research shows that it is less and less multiple year ice, and the thickness of multiple year ice is also shrinking dramatically. Last winter, the maximum extent of Arctic sea ice before the melting season started was at its lowest ever measured by satellites.

The International Panel on Climate Change has forecast an iceless summertime North Pole by sometime in the 2030s, using data based on sea ice extent.

Whenever it happens, whether three years from now or two decades, expect that polar bears and other Arctic species reliant on ice will become imperiled, while new shipping lanes could further Far North commerce and industry.

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