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Arctic ice could melt by summer

Monday, April 06, 2009

From NASA there are new findings that the arctic is on thin ice, quite literally. It was only six feet thick, last winter, and temperatures have warmed so much in the last fifty years that the polar cap is in danger of disappearing in the summer.

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It was one of those scientific news items about the climate that a typical guy on the street might easily dismiss, but not Dennis Schmitt.

"It could be a tipping point, yeah," says Schmitt.

Schmitt from Berkeley is an arctic explorer best known for discovering Warming Island in 2006. The island is a geographic anomaly made possible by the melting of glaciers and ice packs. So, when NASA announced new satellite data on Monday, showing the arctic ice pack to be thinning at an alarming rate, Schmitt is one who understands the consequences.

"Generally it will contribute to Earth warming, and it should contribute to warming not just in polar areas, but it should have an effect all across the latitudes," says Schmitt.

If this trend continues, it is inevitable that the polar ice cap will disappear in summer time. The study shows that 90-percent of the ice there, now, is just one or two years old. Almost all of the ice that had been there for centuries has already disappeared.

One NASA researcher told ABC7 that the ice pack is now melting at a rate two times faster than recent models predicted. The concern is that without ice to reflect summer solar energy, the rate of warming may accelerate with unknown consequences.

"What it could mean is you could have a rapid event. A quick event of a complete loss of the sea ice in that polar basin, in the course of less than a decade, or some people would say even a few years," says Schmitt.

The only good news, that melting sea ice does not raise ocean levels. However, if temperatures keep rising, the glaciers might melt in Greenland, and then the oceans will. No one wants to consider the consequences of that.

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