Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Arctic could be ice-free in three years

Arctic sea ice vanishing faster than 'our most pessimistic models'
Vancouver Sun: Sea ice in Canada's fragile Arctic is melting faster than anyone expected... raising the possibility that the Arctic could, in a worst-case scenario, be ice-free in about three years.

University of Manitoba Prof. David Barber, the lead investigator of the Circumpolar Flaw Lead System Study, said the rapid decay of thick Arctic Sea ice highlights the rapid pace of climate change in the North and foreshadows what will come in the South.

'We're seeing it happen more quickly than what our models thought would happen,' Barber said in a student symposium on climate change in Winnipeg. 'It's happening much faster than our most pessimistic models suggested.'...

'If you go into the rain forest and you cut down all the trees, the ecosystem in that rain forest will collapse,' he said. If you go to the Arctic and you remove all the sea ice or if you remove the timing of the sea ice, the system will change.'

That change will include more invasive species moving up from the South and species that live in the Far North having to adapt to a different environment. The occurrence of Arctic cyclones is also on the rise, which contributes to ice breakup...

This impact means more variability in the Earth's climate -- warm trends are warmer and cold trends are colder... Those extremes may include more frequent summer droughts and more spring floods in southern climes...

Dr. Steve Ferguson, a research scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said the thinning ice and warming of the water brings species from the south and the potential for the spread of disease.
Image source here.