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Scientist sees quick end to summer sea ice

December 12, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The steady melting of Arctic ice greatly accelerated this summer, a warning sign that some scientists worry could mean global warming has passed a tipping point. One even speculated that summer sea ice would be gone in five years.

Greenland's ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer's end was half what it had been four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data obtained by the Associated Press.

"The Arctic is screaming," said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the federal government's National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo.

Last year, two top scientists surprised their colleagues by projecting that the Arctic sea ice was melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of 2040.

This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist H. Jay Zwally said: "At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.

"The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming," said Zwally, who as a teenager hauled coal. "Now as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines."

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