Survey Data Supports Rapid Ice Loss in Arctic; Suggests Arctic Largely Ice-Free in Summer Within 10 Years
New data released by the Catlin Arctic Survey and WWF provides further evidence that the Arctic Ocean sea ice is rapidly thinning, supporting the emerging thinking that the Ocean will be largely ice-free during summer within a decade.
The Catlin Arctic Survey, completed earlier this year, provides the latest ice thickness record, drawn from the only survey capturing surface measurements conducted during winter and spring 2009. The data, collected by manual drilling and observations on a 450-kilometer route across the northern part of the Beaufort Sea, suggests the survey area is composed almost exclusively of first-year ice.
This is a significant finding because the region has traditionally contained older, thicker multi-year ice. The average thickness of the ice-floes measured 1.8 meters, a depth considered too thin to survive the next summer’s ice melt.
The data was analyzed by the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge, led by Professor Peter Wadhams, one of the world’s leading experts on sea ice cover in the North Pole region.
With a larger part of the region now first year ice, it is clearly more vulnerable. The area is now more likely to become open water each summer, bringing forward the potential date when the summer sea ice will be completely gone.
he Catlin Arctic Survey data supports the new consensus view—based on seasonal variation of ice extent and thickness, changes in temperatures, winds and especially ice composition—that the Arctic will be ice-free in summer within about 20 years, and that much of the decrease will be happening within 10 years. That means you’ll be able to treat the Arctic as if it were essentially an open sea in the summer and have transport across the Arctic Ocean.
According to the scientists who have studied the data, the technique used by the explorers to take measurements on the surface of the ice has the potential to help ice modellers to refine predictions about the future survival or decline of the ice.