Ice-free Arctic could bring benefits, climate scientist says
The bright lines on the map show the median extent of Arctic sea ice every July since 1979; white areas show coverage last month. Alaska is at upper left, Greenland at lower center, Europe at right.
August 5th, 2011
02:30 PM ET

Ice-free Arctic could bring benefits, climate scientist says

The Arctic will be practically ice-free during the summer within three decades, the top U.S. ice observer says. But climate change could bring some good with the bad, he adds.

"I'm a climate scientist, but I'm also a realist on this," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Arctic sea ice is disappearing a little more each summer. It shrank in July to the least coverage that satellites have ever recorded for that month, measurements show.

"This is just part and parcel of the decline that we've seen in the overall ice extent because the Arctic is warming up," Serreze said.

Average ice extent was 3.06 million square miles, 81,000 square miles below the previous record low (2007) and 842,000 square miles below average, according the data center. The center operates out of the University of Colorado at Boulder with support from NASA.

Satellite records date to 1979, but observations by ship and plane go back to the 1950s, Serreze said. July's ice coverage "is certainly the lowest in oh, the last 50 or 60 years that we have reliable records for," he said.

The oldest ice in the Arctic, which tends to be the thickest and most resistant to melting, is declining, data center scientists said.

The overall ice coverage declined rapidly in the first half of July but slowed in the second half as weather patterns changed, Serreze said. Now they seem to be changing back again. By the time the melting season ends in September, the ice coverage could be among the lowest three or four ever, he said.

"The Arctic is the heat sink of the Northern Hemisphere," Serreze said. "The ice cover is highly reflective. If you lose that ice cover, you change the heat budget of the Arctic."

That changed budget is likely to affect weather patterns below the Arctic, and ultimately the overall climate, he said.

"This is man-made; there seems to be little doubt in that," Serreze said. "It would be reversible if we were to do something about our carbon dioxide emissions, (but) I don't see much of a fat chance in hell we're going to see any change here. We're going to have to adapt."

Climate change will have some serious consequences, Serreze acknowledged: rising sea levels, loss of habitat for Arctic fauna, drinking water shortages, territorial disputes over newly open waters and more. But there will be some real benefits, he said.

Warmer winters and springs will extend growing seasons and even allow farming to happen in places where it hadn't before, Serreze said.

Another benefit of the retreating ice is increased navigation. A tanker set sail from Murmansk, Russia, on June 29 and completed a crossing of the Kara and Barents seas on July 14, according to the data center. The same company plans to send six or seven more ships along the same route this summer.

"We will adapt, because we have to," Serreze said.

Post by:
Filed under: Climate change • Environment
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Bonita

    I don't think any creatures can adapt dead seas... And scientists always get something wrong in projection...

    August 6, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • orsonne

      dead seas ? do you exagerate MUCH ?

      August 6, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. s kel

    damn gung ho we useually dont agree on anything, but i agree with you on this .i helped a friend of mine in va ,who also a roofing co., been doing it for yrs ,and as a firefighter been on various rooftops. but again my buddy and you have said the same thing, its getting hotter to work on the roofs in spring and summer.

    August 6, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • orsonne

      The temp is not hotter... the roofer and firefighter are just getting OLDER

      August 6, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TERROR ALERT

    REAL SHOOTING IN UTOYA or NORWEGIAN "AFTERLIFE" $$ FLASH MOB !!? stateofterror.blogspot.com/ or stateofterror.wordpress.com/ REAL TEARS OR TEAR GAS AND PURE THEATER ON FACES OF MANIACS !!? OSLO POLICE or COMMUNIST/LIBERAL CRIMINALS WHO WERE PREPARING FOR ACT OF TERROR AGAINST NORWAY AND EUROPE ALMOST HALF DECADE(collecting proofs and photos) AHEAD !!? WILL THERE BE APOCALYPSE NOW(Abomination) OR TOTAL RESISTANCE(civil war) !!? No doubt about bombing in Oslo, but what about shooting in Utoya !!!?

    ARIZONA = UTOYA and STOLTENBERG = BREIVIK (90 minutes vs 30 and for government vehicles or police even 20 minutes the most) !!!

    August 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. brian

    A benefit is that an oil tanker can navigate better?!! wow, we can get that gasoline quicker...this article is a joke

    August 6, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • orsonne

      no climate change alarmists are the joke

      August 6, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. orsonne

    "The bright lines on the map show the median extent of Arctic sea ice every July since 1979; white areas show coverage last month. Alaska is at upper left, Greenland at lower center, Europe at right.

    Untrue the lines show the ice extent from 1979 to 2000 and it is the AVERAGE ICE EXTENT FOR THE MONTH

    And August 2011 is on target to have more ice than 2007,,
    http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_stddev_timeseries.png

    August 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • scott

      Thank god you are here and no better than the scientist what the pictures say........and I believe we can all see the joke!!!!

      August 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. PJB

    So the ice "cover" is cyclical in nature (due to oceanic currents and solar cycles etc.) and we have witnessed in 2007 the minimum of the cycle and now it is headed back to where it was 30 years ago.
    In 15 years when it goes past the "average" will we be headed for a new ice-age like this same government agency was predicting back in the 70's?
    The desire to inflate the importance of one's own perceptions is anti-science. Just stick to the facts and science will demonstrate its presentation of reality.

    August 7, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Bill Fitzgerald

    Mr. Orsonne, The signs of the times before the 2nd coming of the Savior are alarming? What are you afraid of? I say climate change is good news.

    August 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Turboblocke

    From the article: "Climate change will have some serious consequences, Serreze acknowledged: rising sea levels, loss of habitat for Arctic fauna, drinking water shortages, territorial disputes over newly open waters and more. But there will be some real benefits, he said.

    Warmer winters and springs will extend growing seasons and even allow farming to happen in places where it hadn't before, Serreze said."

    Who's he trying to fool? Can you imagine the costs of setting up the infrastructure? The roads, railways, airports, towns etc. And who's going to move there and when? If you're already farming, when will you decide to up sticks and relocate? Surely it will take a couple of years of disastrous crops before you move: then how do you pay for it? And who is going to be feeding us while you set up your new farm?

    August 10, 2011 at 6:35 am | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.