Satellites recently showed that Arctic ice is melting 50% faster than expected, and that sea ice levels are set to hit a record low. Now ice scientist Professor Peter Wadhams has revealed to BBC Newsnight that if the planet was to lose the Arctic ice then the impact would “effectively doubl[e] mankind’s contribution to global warming”.

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Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Wadhams noted that ice reflects sunlight better than open water, ensuring that most of the heat goes back into space. Unfortunately, with the Arctic ice at its lowest levels, more heat is warming the planet than ever before. Wadhams noted that this increased absorption of the sun’s rays is “the equivalent of about 20 years of additional CO2 being added by man”.

Among the facts he cited included that in 1980, the Arctic ice in summer made up some 2% of the Earth’s surface. Now it is just a quarter of what is was. In short, he noted that the Arctic ice cap is “heading for oblivion”.

“The volume of ice in the summer is only a quarter of what it was 30 years ago and that’s really the prelude to this final collapse,” Prof Wadhams said to BBC News. “Parts of the Arctic Ocean are now as warm in summer as the North Sea is in winter.”

At the rate the Arctic sea ice is disappearing, the UK Met Office says it expects the Arctic to be completely ice-free in summer by 2030.

+ European Space Agency

via BBC News

Images: U.S. Geological Survey and NASA Goddard Photo and Video