I have mentioned previously that the area of sea ice in the arctic is showing a dramatic decline – at the least the Financial Times thinks so. The area of sea ice is relatively straightforward to monitor from satellites, and data is available here. But what about the volume of the sea ice?
If the area is shrinking, one would have to guess that there would be some effect on ice thickness as well. This is not straightforward to measure, or to model, but this week I came across a pretty terrifying estimate of how the sea ice volume is varying. The data from the Polar Science Centre is available here and there is a commentary on the data here. The full dataset is shown on the graph at the head of the page. Shockingly the implication is that the minimum volume of sea ice could reach zero – i.e.no arctic sea ice in the summer – sometime around 2020.
Of course there is significant uncertainty in this model, and it could be just wrong. Arch climate skeptic and contrarian Anthony Watts certainly thinks so. Personally I am prepared to let time be the judge – it doesn’t look like we will have to wait for many summers before the truth becomes clear.
Looking on the bright side, perhaps this is the shock we need. As we have seen repeatedly, countries such as the USA and China are able to use scientific uncertainty as an excuse for their understandable reluctance to change. This may not convince climate scientists, but it is enough to convince a fair proportion of their electorate who too are understandably reluctant to change. I think if the entire Arctic ocean melted one summer soon, that this could be a wake up call to us all. Let’s hope so.