A preliminary report issued on Tuesday by an internationally recognized arctic monitoring agency has indicated that the arctic sea ice level peak in March 2011 was at its second lowest level since measurements began in 1880, and that the drop in arctic sea ice levels is accelerating.
In turn, the new measurements have caused an increase in the predicted sea level rise by the year 2100 to be anywhere from almost three feet to over five feet.
According to Reuters, a previous forecast by the United Nations in 2007 had indicated the expectation of a sea increase by between approximately 7 inches and 23 inches by the year 2100. However, this UN assessment did not take into account an acceleration of the reduction of arctic sea ice.
The initial report was issued by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP). The full report will be released next week at a meeting in Greenland of the Arctic Council nations – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.
The AMAP stated in its study, “In the future, global sea level is projected to rise by 0.9 meters (2ft 11in) to 1.6 meters (5ft 3in) by 2100 and the loss of ice from Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland ice sheet will make a substantial contribution.” The study also concluded, “Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland ice sheet contributed over 40 percent of the global sea level rise of around 3 mm per year observed between 2003 and 2008.”
Such a rise in sea levels will significantly endanger coastal regions worldwide, and will make protecting such regions from tropical storm systems and tsunamis much more difficult, and much more costly.
Although the introduction of additional greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by man-made sources plays a preliminary role in climate change and arctic ice reduction, data supports the theory that a primary cause of the now observed acceleration is the reduction in sea ice itself. Sea ice reflects energy from the sun; the smaller the sea ice area, the more heat is absorbed by the water, which reduces sea ice even further, in a potentially runaway effect.
In early April, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) also released a report based on data which stated that arctic sea ice level as of peak in March 2011 was at its second lowest level that has been recorded by satellite. Data analysis on the sight shows a steady decline in sea ice levels since the start of satellite measurement in 1979. However, the age of the arctic ice has increased slightly over the past two years. It is speculated that this is due the economic recession which significantly reduced emissions from industry and transportation.
According to its website, the NSIDC is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder.