North pole unlikely to be ice-free this summer, say UK scientists, but long-term decline continues
By Megan Darby
Arctic sea ice extent has shrunk 40% since the 1970s, prompting speculation as to when it might disappear altogether.
At a scientific gathering last September, Cambridge University’s Peter Wadhams said it could be as soon as summer 2015.
That’s unlikely, according to UK scientists, after the latest data showed sea ice volume had rebounded from low points in 2010 and 2012.
A study published in Nature Geoscience on Monday found an unusually cool summer in 2013 drove a 41% increase in sea ice volume that year.
Models show Arctic sea ice melting over the long term, UCL scientist and lead author Rachel Tilling said. The latest data shows “it can recover by a significant amount if the melting season is cut short”.
It means the Arctic might be more resilient than previously thought, added Andy Shepherd, professor at UCL and at the University of Leeds.
“Understanding what controls the amount of Arctic sea ice takes us one step closer to making reliable predictions of how long it will last, which is important because it is a key component of Earth’s climate system.
“Although the jump in volume means that the region is unlikely to be ice free this summer, we still expect temperatures to rise in the future, and so the events of 2013 will have simply wound the clock back a few years on the long-term pattern of decline.”
The melting icecap has seen the region opened up to shipping and oil exploration in the summer.