Scientists are growing increasingly concerned about the pace at which ice is melting in the Arctic. They say that the record melt of the summer of 2012 is part of a lasting trend that has global implications. Norwegian researchers are saying that the sea ice is thinning, leading to the greatest thaw on record. Scientists began keeping the data 30 years ago.
The Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI)’s international director, Kim Holmen, said that the changes are shocking to her and other scientists.
“It is a greater change than we could even imagine 20 years ago, even 10 years ago,” Dr Holmen told the BBC. “And it has taken us by surprise and we must adjust our understanding of the system and we must adjust our science and we must adjust our feelings for the nature around us.”
Another scientist, Dr. Edmond Hansen, also said that he was shocked at the recent developments.
“As a scientist, I know that this is unprecedented in at least as much as 1,500 years. It is truly amazing – it is a huge dramatic change in the system,” he said. “This is not some short-lived phenomenon – this is an ongoing trend. You lose more and more ice and it is accelerating – you can just look at the graphs, the observations, and you can see what’s happening.”
Even conservative estimates predict that the Arctic could become free of ice by the summer of 2080. This reduction in sea ice can impact the jet stream, which is controlled by differences in temperature between the Tropics and the Arctic. This could lead to lasting climate changes in Europe and other continents as well.
“When the Arctic is ice free, it is not white anymore and it will absorb more sunlight and that change will influence wind systems and where the precipitation comes,” said Holmen. “For northern Europe it could mean much more precipitation, while southern Europe will become drier so there are large scale shifts across the entire continent.”