Danish researchers have provided further evidence to suggest how the North Pole's ice cap is shrinking, reports said Monday.
"The ice cap is at an extreme low. For the 50 years we have data from, we have never seen anything like it," Leif Toudal Pedersen of the Technical University of Denmark told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
A survey based on satellite imagery from Sunday suggested that the ice cap was 40 to 45 per cent less - or a reduction of 2.5 million square kilometres - than on average during the period 1997-2000, the newspaper reported.
The area would comprise Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Britain, Ireland, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.
Global warming was a contributing factor, but this year strong currents have also swept large masses of ice from Siberia via the North Pole past eastern Greenland and further south where it melted, Pedersen said.
Ice free summers in the North Pole area could be a reality in 15 to 20 years as opposed to previous projections of 30 to 40 years, he said.
Eigil Kaas, professor of meteorology at Copenhagen University, said the effects were "frightening," adding that it was now just a matter of how fast the sea ice would melt.
Danish Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard said the results proved "further support" for the need to clinch an international climate treaty where the big players, the United States and China, were signatories, public broadcaster DR reported.
The melting ice poses a threat to animal and birdlife in the region, as well as low-lying areas worldwide.
A possible benefit would be access to hidden oil and gas reserves in the Arctic region as well as faster sea transports between Europe and Asia.
"If you for instance want to sail from Rotterdam in the Netherlands to Yokohama in Japan the sea route via the Arctic sea is 34 per cent shorter than via the Suez canal.
Shipping companies are definitely looking into this," Hans Henrik Petersen of the Danish Shipowners' Association told Jyllands-Posten.
Last Mod: 03 Eylül 2007, 18:10