It’s been another lean summer for the Arctic Ocean’s sheath of summer sea ice.
Much of the ice in one region is too thin to survive next summer’s melt season, according to an expedition that trekked across the ice in the Beaufort Sea off the coasts of Canada and Alaska.
An expedition by the World Wildlife Fund and the Catlin Arctic Survey found that the average thickness of the ice it measured was roughly 1.8 meters (6 feet). It released the results today.
After reviewing the data the expedition collected, a team at the University of Cambridge’s Polar Ocean Physics Group concluded that the ice cap is on track to vanish during Arctic summers sometime within a generation.
The new data “supports the consensus view — based on seasonal variation of ice extent and thickness, changes in temperature, winds, and especially ice composition — that the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer within about 20 years.” By “composition” he’s referring to the ratio of thick multi-year ice that resists summer melt to become the foundation for the next winter’s freeze and thinner one- or two-year-old ice that fails to make it through the following summer.
Earlier this month, the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., released its end-of-the season wrap-up Oct. 6 and came to essentially the same conclusion.
This year’s summer ice reached the third lowest extent since scientists began tracking the ice with satellites in 1979. But more first-year and second year ice has survived compared with the past couple of summer, notes Walt Meier, a senior scientist at the center.