Wieslaw Maslowski’s research suggests ice-free summers in Arctic by next decade

Some scientists say that Arctic summers might be ice-free within the next decade. Oceanographer Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Post-Graduate School spoke to EarthSky about an accelerating melting of ‘multi-year ice.’ That’s thick, old ice that didn’t used to melt from season to season.

Wieslaw Maslowski: We’re suggesting that sometime between 2010 and 2016, we might melt all this multi-year ice cover during summer in the Arctic.

Other estimates have predicted we won’t see ice-free summers for decades yet. But Maslowski said that these estimates don’t account for the loss of ice thickness.

Wieslaw Maslowski: This total volume loss, which is mostly controlled by the ice thickness loss, has been basically twice as fast as the surface loss observed by satellites.

Maslowski said the Arctic ice loss is a continually accelerating cycle that’s being amplified by global warming. When the Arctic sun shines on open water, rather than reflective ice, the ocean absorbs and stores more of the sun’s heat. Warmer ocean temperatures melt the ice from below, while warmer air temperatures melt it from above.

Wieslaw Maslowski: It’s basically a positive feedback loop, which is saying one change leads to even further changes.

Our thanks to:
Wieslaw Maslowski
Research Associate Professor
Department of Oceanography
Naval Post-Graduate School

February 24, 2009

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