Following the record minimum in 2007, experts began a fun process of trying to outdo each other with their “ice-free Arctic” forecasts. I am going to explain here why they have it backwards.
Dr. Olav Orheim, the Norwegian International Polar Year Secretariat, remarked in 2008 :
“If Norway’s average temperature this year equals that in 2007, the ice cap in the Arctic will all melt away (in 2008), which is highly possible judging from current conditions”
Professor Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School forecast an ice free Arctic by the year 2013.
“Our projection of 2013 for the removal of ice in summer is not accounting for the last two minima, in 2005 and 2007.. So given that fact, you can argue that may be our projection of 2013 is already too conservative.”
Dr. David Barber from the University of Manitoba has forecast an ice free summer by the year 2015.
“Things are happening much faster in the Arctic. I think it will be summer ice-free by 2015,”
These forecasts are ridiculous, but they are worse than it seems.
The 2007 record minimum was caused by southerly winds, which compacted the ice at higher latitudes and melted it at lower latitudes. The PIPS2 video below shows the thickening of the ice as the summer progressed.
A good analogy is shoveling the snow in your driveway. You decrease the area, while increasing the thickness. The last place the snow melts in your yard is the pile of snow next to the driveway. Same thing in the parking lot at the mall. The graph below shows the relative thicknesses of the ice over the last five years. In September, 2007 (during the record minimum extent) ice thickness was at a maximum.
Now consider the geographic location of the ice. The thick ice was at high latitudes near Canada and Greenland, where temperatures are coldest and the melt season is the shortest. In summary, the ice was piling up thicker in the locations where it is also least likely to melt.
In order to have a ice-free Arctic, we would have to see the opposite pattern occur – i.e. the ice would have to spread to lower latitudes and thin.
Forget about seeing an ice-free Arctic. It isn’t going to happen any time soon.