Saturday, February 6, 2010

Arctic sea ice vanishing faster than 'our most pessimistic models': researcher

Bruce Owen in the Winnipeg Free Press: Sea ice in Canada’s fragile Arctic is melting faster than anyone expected, the lead investigator in Canada’s largest climate-change study yet said Friday — raising the possibility that the Arctic could, in a worst-case scenario, be ice-free in about three years. University of Manitoba Prof. David Barber, the lead investigator of the Circumpolar Flaw Lead System Study, said the rapid decay of thick Arctic Sea ice highlights the rapid pace of climate change in the North and foreshadows what will come in the South.

“We’re seeing it happen more quickly than what our models thought would happen,” Barber said at a student symposium on climate change in Winnipeg. “It’s happening much faster than our most pessimistic models suggested.” Barber and more than 300 scientists from around the globe spent last winter on the Canadian Coast Guard research ship Amundsen in the Arctic, studying the impact of climate change. It was the first time a research vessel remained mobile in open water during the winter season. The Canadian government provided $156 million in funding for the study.

Barber said the melting sea ice can be compared to disappearing rain forests. “If you go into the rain forest and you cut down all the trees, the ecosystem in that rain forest will collapse,” he said. “If you go to the Arctic and you remove all the sea ice or if you remove the timing of the sea ice, the system will change.” That change will include more invasive species moving up from the South and species that live in the Far North having to adapt to a different environment….

Arctic ice pack from a plane, shot by Ashley Pollak, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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