The summer melt season isn’t over and already the arctic ice cap is on track to melt to its lowest level in history. Nevermind political debates about climate change, or riviting documentaries of what may happen in the future, as the summer has brought heatwave after heatwave in different parts of the world, arctic ice has been melting at an unbelievable pace.
This year will smash the previous record set in 2007 when the Arctic ice cap shrunk to 4.25 million square kilometres, a development that scientists back then had not seen coming. One reason for this year’s unexpectedly rapid pace may have been an arctic cyclone that struck earlier this month.
Despite all the surprise about the speed with which events are unfolding, scientists have acknowledged that the melting is in line with the expected results of global warming, the destructive combination of rising temperatures in the atmosphere and warmer oceans. Researchers in both Russia and the United States have been monitoring the melting ice caps and now predict they could melt completely within the coming decades.
Some commercial players are excited about the opportunities to use the arctic as a shipping route or for underwater mining once the ice melts. Several nations that border with the arctic are attempting to claim territorial sovereignty over parts of what has been traditionally a region dedicated only to international research and education. For the citizens of the world, meanwhile, the loss of the ice caps will mean losing the important function of reflecting light and helping keep the earth cool.
Photo: baine / flickr