The entire Arctic ice shelf will be gone in four years, as predicted professor Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University. The new blunt assessment, which comes from one of the leading scientists in the field, flies in the face of a conventional prediction made less than 5 years ago that gave the Arctic another 50 years before all its ice would disappear. But this year’s dramatic reduction in sea ice has many rethinking the timeline. Moreover, this does bleak prediction not only mean the end of the polar bear, but rather the beginning of a very serious feedback loop that will demonstratively hasten the heating of the planet.
In the sobering analysis published in the Guardian Wadhams, writes: “This collapse, I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates”. The resulting loss of the ice’s albedo is resulting in a feedback loop where the ocean is absorbing more energy and causing the ice to melt faster.
Wadhams goes on to explain the loss of ice will then cause the ocean water to warm up, which then warms the ocean floor. Much of the Arctic continental shelf is composed of offshore permafrost which contains methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas. The release of permafrost methane is what keeps many climatologists up at night, as a runaway greenhouse effect would result if a significant portion of it is released.
What was long a hypothetical scenario could very well be measured in a few years time and potentially unstoppable. Wadham warns that a significant reduction in CO2 emissions needs to happen now. He also calls for using geo-engineering technologies to slow the warming of the earth.
Via The Guardian
Lead photo Wikimedia