Steve Connor: Bets still on for ice-free North Pole

Science Notebook

Share
Related Topics

Back in June we published a front-page story about the possibility of there being no sea ice at the North Pole this summer. Well summer has come and gone, and there is still ice at the North Pole. How could we have got it so wrong?

First, I'd like to make it clear that we of course stand by our story (We would say that, wouldn't we?) In June, the thinner, first-year sea ice formed last winter had for the first time been pushed over large areas around the geographic North Pole. As a result, Arctic scientists were taking bets over whether this first-year ice would melt so that open water would appear at the North Pole. Some put the odds at greater than 50:50. This is why we thought it interesting and important enough to put on the front page – complete with appropriate caveats.

What actually happening during July, August and September has now been analysed by the same scientists. They found that the summer melting period for 2008 was unusual in that more first-year ice survived at the end of the 2008 summer compared to 2007. This was due to a combination of factors, such as the more northerly latitudes where the first-year ice was found, the warmer temperatures, and winds that had not compacted the ice as they had done in 2007. As a result, 2008 came second to 2007 in terms of record melting of sea ice – and the North Pole remained iced up.

What's interesting now, though, is that we are entering Arctic winters with smaller and smaller amounts of thicker, multi-year ice. This makes it less likely for there to be a substantial build-up of thick ice over winter. It is surely only a matter of time before we will see an ice-free North Pole, and indeed a totally ice-free Arctic Ocean,during summer. My own bet is that we will see the former within the next decade.

Dry place for a product

Much is being made of the latest Bond movie Quantum of Solace because of product placement. One product that the movie should place centre-screen is the European Southern Observatory in Chile, one of thelocations where the film was shot.

Having been to this remote outpost high in the Atacama desert, I can confirm it has all the trappings of a true Bond location. Theastronomers' living quarters are constructed underground, with a huge glass dome letting in sunlight. Being in the driest part of the world, all the water has to be shipped in by tankers each day and is recycled several times before being finally used on the vegetation.

And just to prove my Bond credentials, here's a picture of me posing in front of the first of 64 radio dishes that will form the millimetre-wave telescope under construction at Chajnantor, which at 5,100 metres above sea level is the highest building site in the world.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

How did swearing ever get so frowned upon?

Stefano Hatfield
.  

When league tables claim that 0% of students at top schools are getting a good education, it's glaringly obvious that they need to be scrapped

Chris Sloggett
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links