The future is on thin ice

The big story this week were those topless shots of Kate Middleton. Meanwhile, scientists studying the North Pole presented data indicating that the end of the world as we know it is imminent. Ho-hum:

Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its smallest surface area since record-keeping began, taking the world into “uncharted territory” as climate change intensifies, US scientists warned Wednesday.

Satellite images show the ice cap had melted to 1.32 million square miles (3.4 million square kilometers) as of September 16, the predicted lowest point for the year.

That’s the smallest Arctic ice cover since record-keeping began in 1979, the National Snow and Ice Data Center said.

“We are now in uncharted territory,” the center’s director, Mark Serreze, said, in a statement…

Scientists use Arctic sea ice extent as an indicator of what’s happening with the overall climate. Despite year-to-year fluctuations from natural weather variations, the ice cap has shown a clear trend towards shrinking over the last 30 years, the NSIDC center said…

“…Twenty years from now in August you might be able to take a ship right across the Arctic Ocean,” once blocked year-round by ice, said NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve.

Climate models predict “ice free conditions” before 2050, she added, but said the decline appears to be happening faster than predicted.

The NSIDC warned that increased heat and moisture from the melting Arctic ice cover could have global climate implications.

“This will gradually affect climate in the areas where we live,” he said. “We have a less polar pole — and so there will be more variations and extremes.”

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