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by Larry

October, 2005

Going, Going, Gone!
(An Update on Northern Melting)

An area of sea ice about twice the size of TX is now being lost to the Arctic every decade, per studies through September, 2005. This extent of decline is significantly greater than the earlier recorded average ocean ice loss for the region. Since 1978, the rate of loss had been around 6.5% per decade, until it was recorded at about 7.2% per decade in the early 2000s. It is up to 8% a decade currently.

The phenomenon is not considered an aberration but a definite trend of accelerating decline. Since the Arctic system, originally complex and with feedbacks built-in, seems now to be breaking down, becoming simpler, the faster drop of ocean ice will lead to summer open water throughout the Arctic by the end of the century, scientists say, unless countertrends occur between now and then. As no sufficient opposing natural forces are anticipated, the Arctic seems destined to be ice free year round by the next century.

Already, Russian observers are reporting substantial sea lanes opening up in formerly ice-bound passages between some of their Arctic islands. Their icebreakers are having less to do to establish and maintain commercial ocean routes.

The loss of northern sea ice will likely not be without other changes. Many species, from krill to polar bears, are at risk. Rising global sea levels may accompany the Arctic alterations. Weather patterns could also be significantly affected.

Source: Sea Ice Decline Intensifies. Available at NSIDC News; September 28, 2005.

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