Feeds

Arctic sea ice gone within a century?

Polar habitats threatened by thaw

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.