It was only five years ago in December that Al Gore claimed that the polar ice caps would be completely melted by now. But he might be surprised to find out that Arctic ice coverage is up 50 percent this year from 2012 levels.
“Some of the models suggest that there is a 75 percent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during some of the summer months, could be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years,” Gore said in 2008.
The North Pole is still there, and growing. BBC News reports that data from Europe’s Cryosat spacecraft shows that Arctic sea ice coverage was nearly 9,000 cubic kilometers (2,100 cubic miles) by the end of this year’s melting season, up from about 6,000 cubic kilometers (1,400 cubic miles) during the same time last year.
This came as a shock to researchers who saw Arctic sea ice coverage shrink to a documented low in 2012. However, now sea ice coverage has expanded to reach the sixth record low, according to AFP.
“We didn’t expect the greater ice extent left at the end of this summer’s melt to be reflected in the volume,” said Rachel Tilling of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling in a statement. “But it has been, and the reason is related to the amount of multi-year ice in the Arctic.”
“In previous summers, some of the [multi-year ice] migrated over to the Alaska and Siberia areas where it melted,” Dr. Don Perovich, a sea-ice expert at Dartmouth College, told BBC News. “But this past summer, it stayed in place because of a change in wind patterns. And so there’ll likely be more multi-year ice next year than there was this year.”
This is good news for the Arctic, but presents somewhat of a tough problem for environmentalists and some climate scientists who have been pummeled with evidence this year contradicting the theory of man-made global warming.
Scientists have been struggling to explain away the 15-year pause in rising global temperatures. Some have turned to solar activity or natural climate cycles to explain the hiatus in warming.
However, scientists have cautioned that while Arctic sea ice coverage expanded this year, one year is not enough to say the global warming has stopped.
“Although the recovery of Arctic sea ice is certainly welcome news, it has to be considered against the backdrop of changes that have occurred over the last few decades,” Andy Shepherd of University College in London told BBC News.
“It’s estimated that there were around 20,000 cu km of Arctic sea ice each October in the early 1980s, and so today’s minimum still ranks among the lowest of the past 30 years,” Shepard added.
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