Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

No ice for the polar bear

Summer ice in the polar regions may be gone in ten years. Then the polar bear is eradicated.


By Jane George

[Climate] Within ten years, the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free all summer, according to an American researcher. The sea ice is now melting faster than all previous studies have shown.

- If it melts as fast as it has in the last five to ten years, it takes ten years before everything is melted, says researcher Wieslaw Maslowski at

Marine Research Center in California. Maslowski's research shows that an ice-free polar ocean will lead to dramatic changes in the Arctic ecosystem. Among other things, the polar bear will be eradicated.

- We have arrived at these results with the help of new model experiments. There are many indications that the police are melting much faster than previously thought. Most climate and ocean current models probably underestimate how fast ice actually melts, says Maslowski.

Previously, the ice cover shrank in the summer, then grew larger or returned to its normal size in the winter. This has not happened in recent years. The development affects the ice in the entire area around the North Pole – Barents

the region, the Northwest Passage north of Canada, and the Northeast Passage north of Russia. The ice level in the Arctic was reduced by 20 percent in 2005, compared with the average for the years 1979 to 2000.

- The measurements from 2005 disregarded all previous studies, says researcher Walt Meier at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, USA.

Most models suggest an ice-free Arctic summer time sometime after 2070. Meier is skeptical that Maslowski will push this scenario 50 years ahead, but will not reject the theory.

For shipping, an ice-free passage north of Canada has long been a dream. Ships going from Asia to Europe will have a shorter travel route of 4000 kilometers by sailing this route, compared to today's route through the Panama Canal.

However, an ice-free Arctic will be dramatic for wildlife and those in the north who rely on ice to maintain their way of life.

- Well pessimistic

By Jógvan H. Gardar

[ice melting] Pål Prestrud, director of Cicero, center for climate research at the University of Oslo, does not reject Wieslaw Maslowski's theories. Still, he thinks the theory is too pessimistic.

- The ice reduction has taken place much faster in the last four or five years and now has a much greater speed than the researchers had imagined. The reduction in ice extent is now at least seven to eight per cent per decade, while it has been three to four per cent per decade for the last thirty years. If the ice continues to decrease at this speed, the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in the summer of 50 years, Prestrud believes.

He emphasizes that things can go even faster. In September last year, the amount of ice in the Arctic Ocean was reduced by two million square kilometers, corresponding to six times Norway's area, compared to the average in the twenty-year period up to 2000.

- When the distribution of snow and ice is reduced, more heat from the sun will be absorbed by the open sea and by snow-free ground. It will amplify the heating. This means that it is possible that the speed of the ice reduction will accelerate, he says. n

You may also like