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Arctic ice cap melting 30 years ahead of forecast

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070501/sc_nm/globalwarming_ice_dc Arctic ice cap melting 30 years ahead of forecast By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070501/sc_nm/globalwarming_ice_dc

      Arctic ice cap melting 30 years ahead of forecast

      By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent Tue
      May 1, 2:59 PM ET

      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Arctic ice cap is melting
      much faster than expected and is now about 30 years
      ahead of predictions made by the Intergovernmental
      Panel on Climate Change, a U.S. ice expert said on
      Tuesday.

      This means the ocean at the top of the world could be
      free or nearly free of summer ice by 2020, three
      decades sooner than the global panel's gloomiest
      forecast of 2050.

      No ice on the Arctic Ocean during summer would be a
      major spur to global warming, said Ted Scambos, a
      glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Center in
      Colorado.

      "Right now ... the Arctic helps keep the Earth cool,"
      Scambos said in a telephone interview. "Without that
      Arctic ice, or with much less of it, the Earth will
      warm much faster."

      That is because the ice reflects light and heat; when
      it is gone, the much darker land or sea will absorb
      more light and heat, making it more difficult for the
      planet to cool down, even in winter, he said.

      Scambos and co-authors of the study, published in the
      journal Geophysical Research Letters, used satellite
      data and visual confirmation of Arctic ice to reach
      their conclusions, a far different picture than that
      obtained from computer models used by the scientists
      of the intergovernmental panel.

      "The IPCC report was very careful, very thorough and
      cautious, so they erred on the side of what would
      certainly occur as opposed to what might occur,"
      Scambos said in a telephone interview.

      ICE-FREE SUMMER

      The wide possibility of what might occur included a
      much later melt up north, or a much earlier one,
      Scambos said.

      "It appears we're on pace about 30 years earlier than
      expected to reach a state where we don't have sea ice
      or at least not very much in late summer in the Arctic
      Ocean," he said.

      He discounted the notion that the sharp warming trend
      in the Arctic might be due to natural climate cycles.
      "There aren't many periods in history that are this
      dramatic in terms of natural variability," Scambos
      said.

      He said he had no doubt that this was caused in large
      part by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which he
      said was the only thing capable of changing Earth on
      such a large scale over so many latitudes.

      Asked what could fix the problem -- the topic of a new
      report by the intergovernmental panel to be released
      on Friday in Bangkok -- Scambos said a large volcanic
      eruption might hold Arctic ice melting at bay for a
      few years.

      But he saw a continued warm-up as inevitable in the
      coming decades.

      "Long-term and for the next 50 years, I think even the
      new report will agree that we're in for quite a bit of
      warming," Scambos said.

      "We just barely now, I think, have enough time and
      enough collective will to be able to get through this
      century in good shape, but it means we have to start
      acting now and in a big way."
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