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Ice-free North Pole this summer?

It all started with a news item in Canada on June 23. The University of Manitoba researcher David Barber told the Canwest News that “the North Pole may be free of ice for the first time in history” this summer.

This was interpreted by many as further proof of the adverse effects of climate change and fitted with last summer’s news about the ice-free Northern Passage. However, there are also many who are critical of the “sensationalization” of the issue which could send people living near the shore in panic.

According to a treehugger article, the chance of an ice-free North Pole is 50/50. In addition, the complete melting of the arctic ice will not necessarily lead to increased sea levels and flood areas along the shoreline. However, there will be other effects, one of them being a massive increase in albedo which is the surface reflectivity of sun’s radiation. Increased albedo means more sun radiation is absorbed, thus heating up the water even more.

Scientists are being cautious in making conclusions about the recent findings. And I think we all should avoid panic. However, we all have the right to know what’s happening to our ice caps, north and south. For a great discussion on this topic, see Nature’s The Great Beyond Blog.

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