- Politics and Social Issues
Arctic Sea Ice Melting Much Faster Than Expected - Part II
The 2007 through 2009 years are the three lowest years of extent of sea ice since 1979 when satellite measurements of the sea ice's mass began. However, Prof. Barber's research findings seem to indicate that the 5.4 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles) of ice in 2009 may in fact contain even less water in frozen form than the low extent in September 2007 of 4.3 million square kilometers (1.7 million square miles). The total amount of ice lost from the "normal" range to the lowest range is enough area to cover the entire nation of China!
Another important factor to consider is that the earliest research only dates back about three decades when climate change had already proceeded to a great extent. There are historical records of Arctic explorers to substantiate the claim that the maximum extent of sea ice was much greater 100 or so years ago.
The degradation of the ancient ice cover of the Arctic Sea is not only widespread but happening at an exceptionally rapid pace. During a voyage in the Beaufort Sea, aboard the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Amundsen, which is dedicated to Arctic research, Prof. Barber noted that the ship was easily slicing through ice floes that were over 25 feet thick. Normally ice that thick would stop a ship like the Amundsen dead in its tracks, but the total thickness of the ice was containing a much tinier total mass of frozen water, therefore resembled more of a sponge toffee consistency than a solid ice sheet.
According to Prof. Barber's research that particular form of ice that he calls rotten ice, has a very similar temperature and salinity near the surface as the totally solid multi-year conventional Arctic ice. That is why so far the conventional types of surveys to identify the extent of the sea ice have been fooled not only visually, but also through microwave analysis: solid multi-year ice and what Prof. Barber has termed rotten ice, come up almost as identical and indistinguishable through these forms of scientific analysis.
It seems that only through direct observation at sea level with the naked eye can the discernment be made between healthy solid multi-year sea ice and the rotten ice. This discovery is possibly one of the most significant ever in the history of the study of the effect of climate change on the northern ocean.
According to Prof. Barber, the Northwest Passage which was so long sought by explorers in previous centuries is now a reality. There is no more ice to stop the sea routes from taking the fabled route which lies to the North of the Canadian land mass and through the Arctic Islands of Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.
Whatever ice may still be in that passage is extremely fragile and does not even require ice-breaking vessels that are equipped specifically for smashing through heavy ice. Unfortunately, the opening up of the Canadian Arctic to summer shipping would degrade the environment even further as ships passing through the Arctic seas would serve to actually heat up the water even further through heat-transfer from their hulls and engines.