Friday, September 15, 2006

We're Melting

San Francisco Chronicle, via commondreams:
Even in Winter, Arctic Ice Melting
Alarmed Scientists Warn that Polar Thawing Threatens Wildlife and is 'Strongest Evidence Yet of Global Warming' in Region

The vast expanses of ice floating in the Arctic Sea are melting in winter as well as in the summer, likely because of global warming, NASA scientists said Wednesday.


The size of this summer's Arctic ice won't be known for a few weeks because it usually reaches its smallest size the third week of September. Last year, scientists found that polar ice twice the size of Texas had melted since NASA started compiling satellite data 27 years ago. Scientists said there could be no ice left in the Arctic in the summer by the end of the century.

Until 2005, the wintertime sea ice -- which is thick and multilayered -- had been relatively stable. In the summer, the ice is thinner, more mobile and melts at the edges every spring before freezing up again in the autumn.

In the last two winters -- 2005 and 2006 -- the size of the sea ice was 6 percent smaller than average, the data show. The sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere covers nearly 10 million square miles in the winter. The melting -- most of it occurring in the eastern Arctic near the North Pole -- correlates with a rise in the ocean's surface water temperature.

If you saw An Inconvenient Truth (if you haven't, rent or buy it when it comes out Sept. 26th) this will send chills down your spine:

Serreze [senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo.] said he was surprised to see a new lake, or polynya, the size of Maryland, opening up in the sea ice north of the Beaufort Sea.

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