John McConnico/AP

North Pole May Be Ice-Free This Summer

June 26, 2008 02:12 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
After a drastic polar meltdown last year, climate scientists say that the Arctic region is primed for the previously unimaginable.

30-Second Summary

"The North Pole may be free of ice for the first time in history," said Canadian climate scientist David Barber to Canwest News Service. "This is a very dramatic change in the High Arctic Climate System."

The Arctic ice shelf underwent a considerable weakening last summer that left the area with a greater concentration of surface ice, said Barber.

Also, satellite images confirm that the immediate area around the North Pole now consists mostly of fragile first-year ice. The surface ice that forms anew every winter is much more vulnerable to melting as temperatures rise in July and August, than thicker and denser multi-year ice that has survived several cycles of thawing and refreezing.

The Arctic experienced a warm spring, said geophysicist Mark Serreze of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre.

"This summer's forecast—and unusual early melting events all around the Arctic—serve as a dire warning of how quickly the polar regions are being affected by climate change,” according to National Geographic.

Jim Beard writes in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that negative impacts of a possible meltdown include accelerated global warming, a loss of habitat for several animal species, and unforeseeable effects on the ocean ecosystem.

On the positive side, it could be clear sailing for ships traveling across the top of the world. 

Some foreign policy experts have predicted, however, that the opening of the Northwest Passage could have dramatic global security implications as nations scramble for the region's rich resources.

Headline Links: Arctic ice may melt completely this summer

Background: 'Experts Warn North Pole Will Be "Ice Free" By 2040'

Security implications

Opinion & Analysis: What does the melting mean for us?

Related Topics: 'Russia Steps Up Arctic Claim'

Reference: North Pole Web Cam; the North Pole


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines