(CNN) — The North Pole may be briefly ice-free by September as global warming melts away Arctic sea ice, according to scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
“We kind of have an informal betting pool going around in our center and that betting pool is ‘does the North Pole melt out this summer?’ and it may well,” said the center’s senior research scientist, Mark Serreze.
It’s a 50-50 bet that the thin Arctic sea ice, which was frozen in autumn, will completely melt away at the geographic North Pole, Serreze said.
The ice retreated to a record level in September when the Northwest Passage, the sea route through the Arctic Ocean, opened briefly for the first time in recorded history.
“What we’ve seen through the past few decades is the Arctic sea ice cover is becoming thinner and thinner as the system warms up,” Serreze said.
Serreze said it’s “just another indicator of the disappearing Arctic sea ice cover” but that it is happening so soon is “just astounding to me.”
“Five years ago, to think that we’d even be talking about the possibility of the North Pole melting out in the summer, I would have never thought it,” he said.
The melting, however, has been long seen as inevitable, he said.
“If you talked to me or other scientists just a few years ago, we were saying that we might lose all or most of the summer sea ice cover by anywhere from 2050 to 2100,” Serreze said. “Then, recently, we kind of revised those estimates, maybe as early as 2030. Now, there’s people out there saying it might be even before that. So, things are happening pretty quick up there.”
Serreze said those who suggest that the Arctic meltdown is just part of a historic cycle are wrong.
“It’s not cyclical at this point. I think we understand the physics behind this pretty well,” he said. “We’ve known for at least 30 years, from our earliest climate models, that it’s the Arctic where we’d see the first signs of global warming.
“It’s a situation where we hate to say we told you so, but we told you so,” he said.
Serreze said the Arctic sea ice will not be the same for decades.
“If we had a few cold years in a row, we could put sort of a temporary damper on it, but I think at this point going to an ice-free Arctic Ocean is inevitable,” he said. “I don’t think we can stop that now.”
Reduced greenhouse gas emissions could “cool things down a bit,” he said.
“It would recover fairly quickly, but it’s just not going to happen for a while,” he said. “I think we’re committed at this point.”
Source: Alan Duke, CNN