Arctic Ice Nears Record Melt

It 'just doesn't look like the Arctic Ocean any more'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2012 2:56 AM CDT
Updated Aug 21, 2012 3:16 AM CDT
Arctic Ice Nears Record Melt
Scientists believe that in years to come, the Arctic Sea will be entirely ice-free for part of every summer.   (AP Photo/NOAA)

The amount of sea ice in the Arctic is on course to hit a record low well before the end of melting season, scientists warn. The previous record was set in 2007, but that was a result of a "perfect storm" of conditions, while this year's melt is more like a "new normal" as climate change accelerates, experts tell Reuters. "What you're seeing is more open ocean than you're seeing ice," says the lead scientist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. "It just doesn't look like the Arctic Ocean any more. "

Experts fear that the melting of Arctic ice will cause the release of methane compounds from frozen soil and the thawing of the Greenland ice sheet, two tipping points that "would have consequences that are practically irreversible on time scales of relevance to humanity," NASA's top climate scientist tells Bloomberg. The loss of ice cover has strategic consequences as well as environmental ones. A Chinese vessel recently became its country's first to traverse the Arctic from Asia to Europe. "Countries that have been kept apart by a wall of ice are now facing each other for the first time, and countries like China are slipping up through the middle," notes a geopolitical analyst. (More Arctic stories.)

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