Published June 30, 2008 10:18 AM

Global Warming to Melt North Pole Ice Cover For First Time in Recorded History

After last year's thin ice cover, the North Pole is poised to vanish due to global warming in a short time

DailyTech has previously covered the frantic pace of melt in Greenland, which is accelerating, dumping vast amounts of water into the sea.  Meanwhile, the North Pole has been steadily melting away as well.  Fortunately, the North Pole ice is floating, and thus will not affect sea levels, but its dissolution is an important indicator of warming.

While some remain critical that global warming is occurring at all, the melting of the North Pole represents a sharp indicator against voices of doubt.  Now scientists are predicting that a major milestone will be reached this summer or next -- the disappearance of the North Pole's ice cover during the Arctic Summer.

To most, imagining the North Pole without ice -- only water -- is an incredible prospect.  But that's the reality of a warming world.


The prediction comes from the U.S.'s top climate researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.  They predict that in September, there is a good chance that the ice will be gone on the pole. 

While this is obviously a rather sobering event, the scientists aren't afraid to poke a little fun at the climatological milestone.  Says the center's senior research scientist, Mark Serreze, "We kind of have an informal betting pool going around in our center and that betting pool is 'does the North Pole melt out this summer?'"

About half the researchers are betting that the geographic pole, currently covered in ice will be ice free this fall.  Last year already saw a similarly landmark event -- the Northwest Passage was ice free last September for the first time in recorded history.

All of these events are merely part of a larger trend according to researchers.  Says Serreze, "What we've seen through the past few decades is the Arctic sea ice cover is becoming thinner and thinner as the system warms up."

Why are they uncertain about whether this summer's warmth will pierce the polar ice?  The warming fluctuates largely with weather patterns, so the metaphorical straw that breaks the camel's back will likely be weather, either this year or next.

"Last year, we had sort of a perfect weather pattern to get rid of ice to open up that Northwest Passage,"  explains Serreze, "This year, a different pattern can set up. so maybe we'll preserve some ice there. We're in a wait-and-see mode right now. We'll see what happens."

While the event is significant, it will not cause any problems says Serreze.

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