Ice-free North Pole ... Maybe


Los Angeles (CA) - Some scientists are predicting an ice-free North Pole this summer, but closer look at the data shows something less alarming. A recent article by UK-based The Independent claims enough sea ice will melt in the region to allow ships to move through the area. In essence, the article says that thicker ice has been melted or blown away by winds and that only thin year-old ice is left. This thin ice is susceptible to melting and some scientists say there’s a 50/50 chance that the North Pole itself will be ice-free by September.

While many people immediately point the finger at global warming and excessive carbon dioxide emissions, some scientists disagree - others even disagree that the North Pole will be completely ice-free this summer. Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center told The Independent that he predicts "even-odds" on whether all the ice at the pole will melt.

Ron Lindsay of the University of Washington/Seattle Polar Science Center told the National Geographic, "Nobody knows for sure" he added that while much of the first-year ice does melt in the summer, "not all of it does." The Independent quotes Lindsay as saying, "There’s a good chance that it will all melt away at the North Pole, it’s certainly feasible, but it’s not guaranteed." So here we have a situation of two publications cherry picking quotes to prove their respective cases.

Despite the differences, most of the scientists agree that the historic data shows an alarming trend at the Pole with the total amount of sea ice decreasing every summer. According to a Scientific America article, soot from cars, forest fires and factories could be causing the snow and ice to melt faster. Pure ice and snow is obviously white and reflects light and heat, but the ice turns grey or even black when soot falls onto it. According to Charlie Zender, a climate physicist at University of California, Irvine, this so-called dark ice could be the cause of 94 percent of Artic warming.

In another very recent article from the AFP, massive underwater volcanoes could also be melting the Arctic ice. But this view isn’t shared by New York Time blogger, Andrew Revkin who says these volcanoes are too deep and that water of varying densities stops the transfer of heat to the ice.

So by September there might not be any ice at the North Pole, but hey you can watch the impending doom on the NOAA’s North Pole web cam.

Regarding our picture, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed to slash California’s carbon emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020. He’s also recently said he’s against offshore oil drilling. Perhaps ’Mr. Freeze’ will save us?