A recent report complied by environmental experts stated an alarming find: The rapid rate in which the Arctic Ocean's ice caps are melting may mean that the sea ice will cease to exist within the next 20-25 years.
Scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) released preliminary figures last week, suggesting that Arctic sea ice has reached it lowest level in recorded history.
The Arctic sea ice has been monitored since 1979, and according to the data on September 16th Arctic ice extent noted drop of at least 45% since records began and measured at 3.41 million sq. km.
The previous record low for Arctic sea ice extent, set on September 18, 2007 with a 4.17-million sq.-km. ice cap, was already shattered by the end of August this year when it had melted to below 4-million sq. km.
The depleting ice cover would have serious ramifications for the planet, as Arctic ice acts as a reflector of sunlight, helping regulate the Earth’s temperature and cooling the climate.
“When there’s no longer that sea ice below the air mass and it’s just open ocean, that’s when more moisture off the ocean’s surface gets into the atmosphere and the water vapor in the atmosphere makes for more violent storms,” John Yackel, a sea ice geophysicist and climatologist with the Cryosphere Climate Research Group, explained.
“We can also expect to see an increase in storm frequency and storm intensity for most of the world’s populated places as the Arctic and Earth continues to warm,” he added.
Urgent action needed
Heads of Greenpeace International addressed a New York City conference held last week on the Polar crisis and urged immediate international response.
Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo and Bill McKibben, founder of the 350.org environmental group, addressed the forum, saying a coordinated international response was crucial.
“Today’s announcement represents a defining moment in human history. In just over 30 years we have altered the way our planet looks from space, and soon the North Pole may be completely ice free in summer," Naidoo said.
Record low. Arctic sea ice (Photo: AP)
“Rather than dealing with the root causes of climate change the current response from our leaders is to watch the ice melt and then divide up the spoils.”
“I hope that future generations will mark this day as a turning point, when a new spirit of global cooperation emerged to tackle the huge challenges we face. We must work together to protect the Arctic from the effects of climate change and unchecked corporate greed. This is now the defining environmental battle of our era.”
Dr. Julienne Stroeve, a research scientist at NSIDC added: "This new record suggests the Arctic may have entered a new climate era, where a combination of thinner ice together with warmer air and ocean temperatures result in more ice loss each summer.
“The loss of summer sea ice has led to unusual warming of the Arctic atmosphere, that in turn impacts weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, that can result in persistent extreme weather such as droughts, heat waves and flooding.”
McKibben added: "There’s no place on Earth where we see the essential irony of our moment playing out more perfectly than in the Arctic. Our response has not been alarm, or panic, or a sense of emergency. It has been: ‘Let’s go up there and drill for oil’. There is no more perfect indictment of our failure to get to grips with the greatest problem we’ve ever faced.”
Greenpeace is calling for the creation of a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the North Pole and a ban on unsustainable industrial activity in the remainder of the Arctic.