Here is a rather bleak prediction for Santa and the rest of his elves.
Abrupt ice retreat could produce ice-free arctic summers by 2040
The recent retreat of Arctic sea ice is likely to accelerate so rapidly that the Arctic Ocean could become nearly devoid of ice during summertime as early as 2040, according to new research published in the December 12 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
The study, by a team of scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the University of Washington, and McGill University, analyzes the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the Arctic. Scenarios run on supercomputers show that the extent of sea ice each September could be reduced so abruptly that, within about 20 years, it may begin retreating four times faster than at any time in the observed record.
"We have already witnessed major losses in sea ice, but our research suggests that the decrease over the next few decades could be far more dramatic than anything that has happened so far," says NCAR scientist Marika Holland, the study's lead author. "These changes are surprisingly rapid."
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's principal sponsor, as well as by NASA.Arctic sea ice has retreated in recent years, especially in the late summer, when ice thickness and area are at a minimum.
The model results indicate that, if greenhouse gases continue to build up in the atmosphere at the current rate, the Arctic's future ice cover will go through periods of relative stability followed by abrupt retreat.
For example, in one model simulation, the September ice shrinks from about 2.3 million to 770,000 square miles in a 10-year period. By 2040, only a small amount of perennial sea ice remains along the north coasts of Greenland and Canada, while most of the Arctic basin is ice-free in September. The winter ice also thins from about 12 feet thick to less than 3 feet.
Why expect abrupt change?
The research team points to several reasons for the abrupt loss of ice in a gradually warming world. Open water absorbs more sunlight than does ice, meaning that the growing regions of ice-free water will accelerate the warming trend.
In addition, global climate change is expected to influence ocean circulations and drive warmer ocean currents into the Arctic."As the ice retreats, the ocean transports more heat to the Arctic and the open water absorbs more sunlight, further accelerating the rate of warming and leading to the loss of more ice," Holland explains. "This is a positive feedback loop with dramatic implications for the entire Arctic region." more
This year is also turning out to be another hot one.
Recent preliminary estimates place 2006 as the fifth hottest on record.
"Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said that the Earth’s five warmest years since the late 1880s were, in decreasing order, 2005, 1998, 2002, 2003 and — if no unexpected fluctuations occur the rest of this month — 2006. "
Even the Russian winter is showing signs of warming.
And the rising oceans may rise even faster than earlier predictions.
All the while, talk in Washington and in the Media is over control.
And it's almost out.
Just ask Santa.
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