With records being shattered all over the place, some names in the cryospheric community are gaining in prominence. One of those names is Peter Wadhams, professor of Ocean Physics at the University of Cambridge, who has been predicting for years the things we are currently witnessing. He already was a prominent expert, allowed to hop on British submarines to measure Arctic sea ice thickness from below, leading him to conclude in 1996 that Arctic ice had thinned by 40 per cent since the 1970s. But he is one of the few scientists to come out early and warn about the impending disappearance of Arctic sea ice and its consequences.
BBC Newsnight has more from Professor Wadhams:
Arctic ice melt 'like adding 20 years of CO2 emissions'
Loss of Arctic ice is effectively doubling mankind's contribution to global warming, ice scientist Professor Peter Wadhams has told BBC Newsnight.
White ice reflects more sunlight than open water, acting like a parasol.
Melting of white Arctic ice, currently at its lowest level in recent history, is causing more absorption.
Prof Wadhams calculates that this increased absorption of the sun's rays is "the equivalent of about 20 years of additional CO2 being added by man".
The Cambridge University expert says that the Arctic ice cap is "heading for oblivion".
In 1980, the Arctic ice in summer made up some 2% of the Earth's surface. But since then the ice has roughly halved in area, and the volume of ice has dropped to just a quarter of what it was.
"The volume of ice in the summer is only a quarter of what it was 30 years ago and that's really the prelude to this final collapse," Prof Wadhams said.
The polar ice cap acts as a giant parasol, reflecting sunlight back into the atmosphere in what is known as the albedo effect.
But white ice and snow reflect far more of the sun's energy than the open water that is replacing it as the ice melts.
Instead of being reflected away from the Earth, this energy is absorbed, and contributes to warming.
Parts of the Arctic Ocean are now as warm in summer as the North Sea is in winter, Prof Wadhams said.
There's some more on the implications of disappearing Arctic sea ice for the UK. Read the whole article here.
I'm sure professor Wadhams will have a paper out to substantiate this claim, but take out your calculators and start crunching, boys and girls.
Also see this excellent article on ClimateProgress, quoting several other ever more prominent names, like Wieslaw Maslowski:
Regardless of all these uncertainties and for the record, if any of these estimates of arctic sea ice volume decline is close to reality, a near ice-free Arctic in summer can happen not in 2100, 2050 or 2037 but much sooner. One of the main reasons I believe it will happen sooner (i.e. the trend of sea ice volume decline will continue) is that with the shrinking sea ice cover in summer the Arctic Ocean increases its net annual heat content through absorption and redistribution, especially in the upper water column, below the surface mixed layer.
This constitutes a positive feedback to sea ice melt in addition to ice-albedo and other feedbacks, mainly because it can affect the sea ice cover year around, including in winter through upward heat entrainment and reduction of ice growth. The warmer Arctic Ocean can also affect air temperatures and circulation, not only during freeze-up but also in winter and spring. Observational evidence (Jackson et al., 2010 and 2011) suggests increasing sub-surface temperatures and over increasing area in the Canada Basin through 2009, which independently of models supports the argument about the increasing upper ocean heat content.
I do realize that the above sounds ‘alarmist’ and I’ve heard such criticism more than once before but I believe it’s my obligation to make sure that this message is heard by the policymakers and general public.
Read the whole article here.