Feeds

Arctic sea ice gone within a century?

Polar habitats threatened by thaw

High performance access to file storage

Researchers from NASA and the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) have warned that the arctic ice cap could completely disappear within a century, after a satellite survey this summer revealed ice cover was at its lowest level ever.

Sea ice coverage was just 2.06m square miles, the scientists said, which is around 20 per cent below the average cover at this time of year in the 1970s. This is low enough to put many arctic species, including the polar bear, at risk.

The scientists said that the reduction in ice cover - equivalent to an area twice the size of Texas (or 62 times the size of Wales) was "stunning". It is also the fourth consecutive year in which cover has fallen.

NSIDC's Walt Meier commented: "Having four years in a row with such low ice extents has never been seen before in the satellite record. It clearly indicates a downward trend, not just a short-term anomaly."

The sea ice in the arctic always retreats in summer, but generally builds back up again during the colder winter months. Last year, however, the ice did not approach its normal winter coverage, so when the spring thaw came, levels were already low.

However, as always with news of this sort, there are some voices calling for a stay of judgment until all the facts are in. The earliest satellite records available for comparison are those from 1978. Some scientists are cautious about making long term trend predictions based on relatively short term data.

Others argue that the Arctic is particularly vulnerable to global warming, because small temperature changes quickly become a positive feedback loop. When ice melts, more ground or water is exposed, both of which absorb more solar energy than ice or snow.

Peter Bond from the Royal Astronomical Society says that data from the CryoSat mission, scheduled for launch on 8 October, should help settle the argument. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.