Growing underwater heat blob speeds demise of Arctic sea ice | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Growing underwater heat blob speeds demise of Arctic sea ice

In March, soon after arriving aboard the Polarstern, a German icebreaker frozen into Arctic sea ice, Jennifer Hutchings watched as ice broke up around the ship, weeks earlier than expected. Even as scientists on the research cruise scrambled to keep field instruments from plunging into the ocean, Hutchings, who studies ice deformation at Oregon State University, Corvallis, couldn’t suppress a thrill at seeing the crack up, as if she had spotted a rare bird. “I got to observe firsthand what I studied,” she says.

Arctic sea ice is itself an endangered species. Next month its extent will reach its annual minimum, which is poised to be among the lowest on record. The trend is clear: Summer ice covers half the area it did in the 1980s, and because it is thinner, its volume is down 75%. With the Arctic warming three times faster than the global average, most scientists grimly acknowledge the inevitability of ice-free summers, perhaps as soon as 2035. “It’s definitely a when, not an if,” says Alek Petty, a polar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.