Researchers and environmental activists have been warning about the increased melting of the Arctic ice for years now. But according to one renowned scientist, the situation might be far worse than previously expected.
The Arctic is about to be free of sea ice this year or next, says professor Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University.
The last time the region was ice-free, it was more than 100,000 years ago.
Wadhams based his theory on data released by the U.S. National Snow & Ice Data Center that show there were just over “11.1 million square kilometers” of sea ice on June 1 this year. This is quite low when compared to the average of the last three decades — nearly “12.7 million square kilometers.”
Arctic sea ice reading (red) shows 1 June well below the average (source NSICD) pic.twitter.com/GCfkGn8VaT— Colm McGlinchey (@ColmMcGlinchey) June 5, 2016
“My prediction remains that the Arctic ice may well disappear, that is, have an area of less than 1 million square kilometers for September of this year,” said Wadhams. “I think there is a reasonable chance it could get down to a million this year and if it does not do it this year, it will do it next year,” he added.
Although Wadhams’ prediction sounds a bit too extreme to some of his fellow researchers, they say it nevertheless points toward a troubling trend.
For instance, Dr. Peter Gleick, a leading climatologist, was critical of Wadhams’ dire warning: “If it's wrong, this kind of projection leads to climate skeptics and deniers to criticize the entire community.” But he said the Cambridge professor was indeed pointing towards a troubling trend, i.e., the constantly rising temperatures in the region.
Just in May, scientists discovered fractures in the ice cover north of Greenland, a phenomenon Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, said was "quite unusual" for this time of year.
"To me, it suggests a thinner, weaker ice cover," Serreze said.
Wadhams' grim forecast about the Arctic is the second most damning news involving global warming recently.
Not two weeks ago, it emerged that over one-third of the central and northern regions of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have died in what is being called the worst mass bleaching event on record.