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Among fears that due to extreme rapid melting the Arctic could be free of summer ice in the next two years, a contingent of some of the brightest minds in the science of climate change that includes NASA's chief scientist, the director of the US National Science Foundation, representatives from the US Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon will be meeting at the White House this week. Joining them in Washington will be Professor Carlos Duarte, a marine scientist from Perth, who is one of 10 researchers from around the world called on to help protect the Arctic.

Professor Duarte, who leads the University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute, warned the Arctic was suffering and the "snowballing" situation would prove as hard to slow down as a runaway train.

   NOAA visualizations 3/22/2013 A series of intense storms in the Arctic has caused fracturing of the sea ice around the Beaufort Sea along the northern coasts of Alaska and Canada. High-resolution imagery from the Suomi NPP satellite shows the evolution of the cracks forming in the ice, called leads, from February 17 -- March 18 2013. The general circulation of the area is seen moving the ice westward along the Alaskan coast.

From Professor Duarte:

The Arctic situation is snowballing: dangerous changes in the Arctic derived from accumulated anthropogenic green house gases lead to more activities conducive to further greenhouse gas emissions. This situation has the momentum of a run-away train. I felt there was little hope that any one nation would take the first step to abandon the greed track. However, a reaction has come, unexpectedly, from the smallest, but perhaps most affected, player.

The Arctic is suffering dangerous climate change.

The last five years have seen a cascade of unprecedented changes after a steep but relatively smooth trajectory of warming and ice loss during the 1990s. Historical record lows of summer minimum ice extent in 2007 were superseded last year: the Arctic could be free of ice in summer by 2015. A 30% increase in annual freshwater runoff has turned the Arctic into an estuarine ocean.


Results of these abrupt changes could include the disruption of the global thermohaline ocean circulation, accelerated sea level rise from melting of the Greenland ice cap, and the destabilization of vast methane hydrate deposits in the continental shelf and coastal permafrost. These current trends and tipping points could lead to a never ending series of knock-on elements.

diarist emphasis

        Animation by Andy Lee Robinson This is an animated visualization of Arctic Sea Ice minimum volumes reached every September since 1979.

The rate of ice loss in the Arctic is staggering. Since 1979, the volume of Summer Arctic Sea Ice has declined by 80% and is accelerating faster than scientists believed it would, or even could melt.

About the data: Sea Ice Volume is calculated using the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS, Zhang and Rothrock, 2003) developed at APL/PSC.
Source data for this graph is available from

Let's hope The White House heeds the urgency of this report. We are all needed to do our part: to push for climate policy and to make the changes necessary in our own lives..

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Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Thu May 02, 2013 at 01:12 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks.

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