The Arctic Ocean could be largely ice-free and open to shipping during the summer in as little as ten years’ time, a top polar specialist has said. Don’t believe it, but who is saying it? Yes, its the Beeb again, determined to run their reputation into the ground and then hammer it six feet under.

This stems from the Caitlin Arctic Survey which isn’t promising.

What Wadhams actually said was “The Catlin Arctic Survey data supports the new consensus view – based on seasonal variation of ice extent and thickness, changes in temperatures, winds and especially ice composition – that the Arctic will be ice-free in summer within about 20 years, and that much of the decrease will be happening within 10 years. There is no such consensus. “Much of the decrease” is too vague to be bettable; 20 years is too long a horizon; so I don’t think there is any scope for interest here. And did PW really say that? I ask because the Science Report contains very similar text, and I don’t think it was written by Wadhams (he can spell “undeformed” for one thing).

The “survey” latest stuff (here but irritatingly no perma-link) trumpets the “New data, released today (15.10.09)” but you have to nip off to their science page to find it. And… it is some data. But it is only one years slice through one bit of the Arctic, so whilst nice enough it won’t revolutionise anything.


  1. #1 carrot eater

    I noticed that as well. Even before you get to the text, the choice of headline is just awful. If you only read the headline (as many might), you’d think there was a prediction that the Arctic would be ice-free this coming summer.

  2. #2 Scatter

    And there was the Beeb laying into Greenpeace in the lamentable Hard Talk spot a while ago…

  3. #3 Hank Roberts

    When you’re looking for shrinking packs of multiyear ice in the Arctic Ocean, bizarre things tend to happen. Top Canadian scientist David Barber knows this first hand, as he explained in a presentation in Parliament on Wednesday. Barber said that to all extents and purposes the multiyear ice in the Arctic had already vanished, which could open up the region to shipping and mineral exploitation.

    Barber, who holds Canada’s Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba, boarded the icebreaker Amundsen last month and steamed north from the Arctic port of Tuktoyaktuk to look for the Beaufort Sea pack ice, the “thickest, hardest, meanest, multi year sea we have left in the northern hemisphere”.

    According to up-to-date satellite maps provided by the Canadian Ice Service, the Amundsen should have started ploughing into progressively thicker ice almost from the start. Soon after the ship set sail Barber went to bed, and then woke up at 2 am in a panic.

    “I looked on my screen and we’re doing 13 knots. We do 13.7 knots in open water and we’re right here (in an area where the maps show there should be thick ice) somewhere, doing 13 knots,” he said.

    “And I just panicked, I thought ‘Oh My God, Stephane the captain is not on the bridge and the first officer has gone crazy, he’s driving this thing way too fast through the sea ice’. So I go up on the bridge and talk to the guys and they say “There is no ice here’.”

    The ship sailed for hundreds of miles, first to the north and then eastwards, “trying to find multiyear sea ice that would even slow us down”. All they found was so-called rotten ice — a thin layer covering small chunks of multiyear ice.

    Eventually the ship found a 10-mile floe of “nice typical traditional Beaufort Sea pack ice” close to the Canadian Arctic archipelago. As they were about to attach the ship to the floe Barber looked out and saw a crack open up right in front of him. “I went ‘Wow, that’s kind of weird’.” Even weirder, he and a colleague then saw the ice move up and down as a swell hit it.

    “And as we watched, literally, without any exaggeration, the entire multi-year floe broke up in five minutes,” he said. Barber blames waves which started off the north coast of Siberia and then rolled across the Arctic Ocean, pushed along by a low pressure system and unencumbered by rotten ice.

    No wonder he says that “I’ve never seen anything like this in my 30 years of working in the high Arctic”….

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