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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Arctic warming 'points to ice-free summers'

By Matthew Moore

Arctic warming 'points to ice-free summers'
In parts of the region air temperatures were 7C higher than normal for the season Photo: AP

Scientists have detected that autumn air temperatures in the region are higher than expected, due to a phenomena called Arctic amplification under which increased melting of sea ice in the summer accumulates heat in the ocean.

Climate-change researchers had not expected to observe Arctic amplification for 10 to 15 years, suggesting that global warming is more advanced that previously thought.

A study from the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco will show that the phenomena has been taking place for five years and will likely intensify in the future, raising the prospect of ice-free summers in the Arctic.

In parts of the region, such as the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, air temperatures were 7C higher than normal for the season.

Julienne Stroeve of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, who jointly led the study, told The Independent: "The warming climate is leading to more open water in the Arctic Ocean. As these open water areas develop through spring and summer, they absorb most of the sun's energy, leading to ocean warming.

"In the autumn, as the sun sets in the Arctic, most of the heat that is gained in the ocean during summer is released back into the atmosphere. It is this heat-release back to the atmosphere that gives us Arctic amplification."

The Arctic had been predicted to see ice-free summers by 2070, but many scientists are now predicting it could happen within the next 20 years, according to the newspaper.

Original here

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