The measured sea ice extent over 2016, compared to the 1981-2010 average and 2012, when the record low for sea ice minimum extent was set. Graph: National Snow and Ice Data Center
For the first time in 100,000 years the chilling landscape of Arctic known for its snow-capped mountains and polar bears may be without its sea ice either this year or the next.
Cambridge University Professor Peter Wadhams has made headlines this weekend, telling The Independent that the Arctic could become ice-free “this year or next,” says a report in Atlas Obscura.
While the extreme prediction has drawn skepticism from other climate scientists, Wadhams’ warning does draw attention to a situation that many monitoring Arctic sea ice find alarming.
He based his prediction on projected data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center showing that on 1 June this year there were estimated to be 11.1 million square kilometers of sea ice. This is below the average from the past 30 years of 12.7 million square kilometers, a difference of an area roughly the same size as the UK.
“My prediction remains that the Arctic ice may well disappear, that is, have an area of less than one million square kilometers for September of this year” the professor told the Independent.
“I think there’s a reasonable chance it could get down to a million this year and if it doesn’t do it this year, it will do it next year” he added.
It is believed the Arctic was last clear of ice about 100,000 to 120,000 years ago.
Sea ice is usually at its lowest in September and starts to build again when the winter sets in. Dr. Peter Gleick, a leading climatologist, said he had “no idea” if Wadhams’ prediction was correct.