Arctic ice melt said to speed up
Arctic ice is melting faster than expected and could raise the average global sea level by as much as five feet this century, an authoritative new report suggests.
The study by the international Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, or AMAP, is one of the most comprehensive updates on climate change in the Arctic.
The full report will be delivered to foreign ministers of the eight Arctic nations next week, but an executive summary including the key findings was obtained by the Associated Press on Tuesday.
The report says Arctic temperatures in the past six years were the highest since measurements began in 1880. The ocean absorbs more heat when it's not covered by ice, which reflects the sun's energy. That effect was anticipated by scientists "but clear evidence for it has only been observed in the Arctic in the past five years," AMAP said.
The report also shatters some of the forecasts made in 2007 by the U.N.'s expert panel on climate change.
The cover of sea ice on the Arctic Ocean, for example, is shrinking faster than projected by the U.N. panel. The level of summer ice coverage has been at or near record lows every year since 2001, AMAP said, predicting that the Arctic Ocean will be nearly ice free in summer within 30 to 40 years.
Its assessment also said the U.N. panel was too conservative in estimating how much sea levels will rise, with a potentially catastrophic impact on coastal cities and island nations.
The melting of Arctic glaciers and ice caps, including Greenland's massive ice sheet, are projected to help raise global sea levels by 35 to 63 inches by 2100, AMAP said, though it noted that the estimate was highly uncertain.
That's up from a 2007 projection of 7 to 23 inches by the U.N. panel, which didn't consider the dynamics of ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctica.
The organization, based in Norway, advises nations surrounding the Arctic — the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland — on threats to the Arctic environment.