Reality bites: Arctic collapse in four years?

Hat tip Planet 3.0 and Desdemonia Despair:

One of the world’s leading ice experts has predicted the final collapse of Arctic sea ice in summer months within four years.

In what he calls a “global disaster” now unfolding in northern latitudes as the sea area that freezes and melts each year shrinks to its lowest extent ever recorded, Prof Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University calls for “urgent” consideration of new ideas to reduce global temperatures.

In an email to the Guardian he says: “Climate change is no longer something we can aim to do something about in a few decades’ time, and that we must not only urgently reduce CO2 emissions but must urgently examine other ways of slowing global warming, such as the various geoengineering ideas that have been put forward.”

These include reflecting the sun’s rays back into space, making clouds whiter and seeding the ocean with minerals to absorb more CO2.

Wadhams has spent many years collecting ice thickness data from submarines passing below the arctic ocean. He predicted the imminent break-up of sea ice in summer months in 2007, when the previous lowest extent of 4.17 million square kilometres was set. This year, it has unexpectedly plunged a further 500,000 sq km to less than 3.5m sq km. “I have been predicting [the collapse of sea ice in summer months] for many years. The main cause is simply global warming: as the climate has warmed there has been less ice growth during the winter and more ice melt during the summer.

“At first this didn’t [get] noticed; the summer ice limits slowly shrank back, at a rate which suggested that the ice would last another 50 years or so. But in the end the summer melt overtook the winter growth such that the entire ice sheet melts or breaks up during the summer months.

“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”.

Wadhams says the implications are “terrible”.

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11 thoughts on “Reality bites: Arctic collapse in four years?

  1. [...] Reality bites: Arctic collapse in four years? [...]

  2. john byatt says:

    Forgot where i got this but agree 100%

    Pointing out that we are close to one of the largest tipping points imaginable in the climate system is well within the remit of science. It’s not alarmist to describe the threat accurately; it’s alarming if the political and social culture can’t absorb this.
    Sociologists tell us that it is easier to motivate people for climate policies by focusing on the benefits of acting (the carrot) rather than on the costs of not acting (the stick).
    As such, they suggest focusing on a positive vision and the good outcomes associated with addressing climate change. While this may be the right strategy, the appeal to benefit comes with no timetable and no particular sense of urgency.
    It is the knowledge of climate thresholds and emission rates that sets the timing issues. Science provides the stick, which is the statement of consequence of not reducing carbon dioxide emissions in rapid order. The carrot might be the best way to get us moving, but the stick sets the beat.

  3. Yeah, this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_in_the_Arctic

    Note how geo-engineering is creeping into the debate/discussion?

  4. I admit I’m not across the ALL the science, but from my “laypersons” perspective based on the science I’ve read these past few years about the issue… well the phrase “call me alarmist” sits well.

    My understanding: if we see an ice-free Arctic we may witness changes to Eurasian/North American weather patterns and potential triggering of tipping points… reduced albedo; the vast CH4 reserves up north thawing/released.

    Just saying.

    • john byatt says:

      What it means to me is that what you speak of is going to commence many decades earlier than projected.

      The good news is that Hansens papers have made it in time to be part of AR5, many papers missed out on AR4 due to early cut off date,

      When a climatologist of Hansens stature fronts up at a demonstration against coal mining then we should really take notice. this is serious

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        I agree. And I’m going to “go of message” and say this. I believe in the messaging strategies used in the past we’ve not discussed the actual threat. It’s a bit like vaguely admitting the country is about to be invaded, but eschew from mentioning who is invading and suggesting a few well placed trenches are fun to build and nothing to do with defense…

    • Nick says:

      There is building evidence that the consistent extensive summer ice loss,subsequent albedo change and increased summer Arctic Ocean insolation feeds through to a shifting of the Arctic high over to Greenland. Highs are orbited by lows which will increasingly track into vulnerable areas over Europe and N America,as well as lead to jet stream eccentricities,producing greater weather volatility…which we are perhaps already witnessing. Summer in High Greenland,over 2500m, will always remain a ‘pole of cold’,relatively speaking.

      Ice will probably retreat to fringing the Canadian Archipelago and northern Greenland,where the thickest oldest ice is always resident,but effectively,another million or two km2 loss is easily ahead.

  5. john byatt says:

    The fixation we had with area and extent was justified up until we had the means of confirming volume,

    No volume, and both area and extent are immaterial, area and extent may grow over the next two years but if volume continues it’s death spiral then 2015 is looking like the year of the ice free arctic, the greenland ice sheet will then be subject to both increased sea an atmospheric temperature as the ice free condition becomes earlier each year, increasing the likelyhood of repeated total surface melts.
    it took 700 years to set the conditions for the 1889 surface melt, the ice sheet was looking good up until 2007 when everything changed. we are truly in unchartered waters

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