Sea ice in the arctic is vanishing far faster than previously thought, new European Space Agency satellite data reveal.
Preliminary information gathered by the ESA's CryoSat-2 probe indicates 900 cubic kilometers (216 cubic miles) of summer sea ice has disappeared from the Arctic Ocean in the past year, The Guardian reported Saturday. That's 50 percent more than most previous projections by polar scientists, the British newspaper said.
Global warming, fueled by greenhouse gas emissions, is the suspected culprit.
"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," said Seymour Laxon of the Center for Polar Observation and Modeling at University College London where the information gathered by CryoSat-2, designed specifically to measure sea ice and launched in April 2010, is being analyzed. "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."
Laxon notes, however, these are preliminary figures, "so we should take care before rushing to conclusions."
The center's Professor Chris Rapley said temperature changes could make the jet stream in the upper atmosphere more unstable.
"That could mean increasing volatility in weather in lower latitudes, similar to that experienced this year," Rapley said.
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