World Bulletin / News Desk
Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is likely to shrink to a record small size sometime next week, and then keep on melting, a scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center said on Monday.
"A new daily record ... would be likely by the end of August," said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the data center, which monitors ice in the Arctic and elsewhere. "Chances are it will cross the previous record while we're still in sea ice retreat."
The amount of sea ice in the Arctic is important because this region is a potent global weather-maker, sometimes characterized as the world's air conditioner. This year, the loss of sea ice in the Arctic has suggested a possible opening of the Northwest Passage north of Canada and Alaska and the Northern Sea Route by Europe and Siberia. As parts of the Arctic melted, 2012 also set records for heat and drought in much of the Northern Hemisphere temperate zone, especially the continental United States.
This summer could see the ice retreat to less than 1.5 million square miles (4 million square km), an unprecedented low, Scambos said.
The previous record was set in 2007, when Arctic ice cover shrank to 1.66 million square miles (4.28 million square km), 23 percent below the earlier record set in 2005 and 39 percent below the long-term average from 1979 to 2000.
However, 2007 was a jaw-dropping "perfect storm" of conditions that primed the area for thawing sea ice: warmer and sunnier than usual, with extremely warm ocean water and winds all working together to melt the Arctic.
Last year, Arctic sea ice extended over the second-smallest area on record, but that was considered to be closer to a "new normal" rather than the extreme conditions of 2007, NSIDC said then.
This year is similar to 2011, Scambos said by telephone from Colorado. The melt season started between 10 days to two weeks earlier than usual in some critical areas including northern Europe and Siberia.
SIGNS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
If the sea ice record is broken this month, that would be unusually early in the season; last year's low point came on Sept. 9, 2011.
Typically, the melting of Arctic sea ice slows down in August as the Northern Hemisphere moves toward fall, but this year, it has speeded up, Scambos said. "I doubt there's been another year that had as rapid an early August retreat," he said.
Overall, the decline of Arctic sea ice has happened faster than projected by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change five years ago, according to NSIDC data ( http://nsidc.org/news/images/20070430Figure1.png ).
To Scambos, these are clear signs of climate change spurred by human activities, notably the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide.
"Everything about this points in the same direction: we've made the Earth warmer," he said.
This summer has also seen unusual melting of the ice sheet covering Greenland, with NASA images showing that for a few days in July, 97 percent of the northern island's surface was thawing. The same month also saw an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan break free from Greenland's Petermann Glacier.
The change is apparent from an NSIDC graphic showing current Arctic ice cover compared with the 1979-2000 average, Scambos said. The graphic is online at http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/ .
"What you're seeing is more open ocean than you're seeing ice," he said. "It just simply doesn't look like what a polar scientist expects the arctic to look like. It's wide open and the (ice) cap is very small. It's a visceral thing. You look at it and that just doesn't look like the Arctic Ocean any more."
After 13 years orbiting the ringed planet, NASA crashed probe into Saturn’s surface
Cassini, an international project that cost $3.9 billion and included scientists from 27 nations, disintegrated as it dove into Saturn's atmosphere at a speed of 75,000 miles (120,700 kilometers) per hour.
Company reveals 3 new iPhones, including new flagship model with facial recognition software
The firm along with SAIC Volkswagen and FAW-Volkswagen are calling back the vehicles owing to a faulty fuel pump, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said on its website.
The platforms will also have to strengthen their oversight over all published information, deleting all illegal content while also alerting authorities to the postings.
An H-IIA rocket blasted off at about 2:30 pm (0530 GMT) from the Tanegashima space centre in southern Japan, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Event offers unprecedented chance for continuous observations across country
Turkish Statistical Institute releases results of April survey on Internet usage
A source close to the matter confirmed a New York Times report on Friday that Facebook took the unusual step of creating an app called Colorful Balloons and releasing it through a local company with no hint that the social network was involved.
The iPhone maker is the latest from Silicon Valley to face a conundrum in balancing their value for human rights and free expression against a government intent on controlling online content.
Researchers use CRISPR gene editing to remove mutation that causes heart failure
Equipped with smart ammunition system, Armed Bayraktar TB2 drones hit precise targets during tests on Sunday
Johnson, kicking off a trip to Japan, visited the robotic centre at Waseda University, which works closely with Britain's University of Birmingham on robotic technologies.
Juno spacecraft will get closest look ever at planet’s massive, centuries-old storm
Novel way of serving has attracted a large number of customers to pizza place in northeastern Multan city