In what is serious cause for concern, the Arctic Sea Ice could melt completely in the next 10 years, finds an alarming new study.
According to the European Space Agency, the ocean could be ice-free in just a few years’ time.
Global warming fueled by greenhouse gas emissions was increasing the speed of melting.
Satellite images reveal that more than 216 cubic miles of sea ice has vanished in the past year.
Dr Seymour Laxon, of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at University College London (UCL) stated, “Preliminary analysis of our data indicates that the rate of loss of sea ice volume in summer in the Arctic may be far larger than we had previously suspected.
“Very soon we may experience the iconic moment when, one day in the summer, we look at satellite images and see no sea ice coverage in the Arctic, just open water."
Arctic ice vanishing 50% faster
In order to measure the thickness of Arctic ice, scientists collected data from NASA planes flying over the ocean and submarines using sonar measurements from beneath the ice.
This was cross checked with information obtained from the CryoSat-2 probe, a satellite launched in 2005 for tracking the Earth's sea ice.
The results illustrated that ice thickness has shrunk rapidly in the Arctic and the remaining is also dwindling drastically.
The study indicates the disappearance is 50 per cent faster than previous estimates by environmentalists.
The explorations reveal that just about 7,000 cubic kilometers of ice remained in the Arctic at the end of last summer. This is roughly half the amount in 2004 which was 13,000 cubic km of sea ice.
Professor Chris Rapley of UCL stated, "Before CryoSat, we could see summer ice coverage was dropping markedly in the Arctic. But we only had glimpses of what was happening to ice thickness. Obviously if it was dropping as well, the loss of summer ice was even more significant.
"We needed to know what was happening – and now CryoSat has given us the answer. It has shown that the Arctic sea cap is not only shrinking in area but is also thinning dramatically."
Absence of the ice caps
The loss of the Arctic's ice caps will lead ocean temperatures to surge, melting methane to deposits on the ocean floor and release large amounts of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. All this will increase global warming and rise in sea levels.
"With the temperature gradient between the Arctic and equator dropping, as is happening now, it is also possible that the jet stream in the upper atmosphere could become more unstable. That could mean increasing volatility in weather in lower latitudes, similar to that experienced this year,"