Arctic summer ice could melt nearly completely by mid-century, study says

The Arctic Ocean could lose nearly all of its summer ice by 2040, says a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Research suggests that Arctic ice will begin retreating rapidly around 2024; by mid-century, far northern Canada and Greenland may claim the summer’s only ice, while the North Pole will be ocean. A different study, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, finds that the Arctic refroze slooowly this fall, with November’s average ice cover the lowest since satellite measurements began in 1979. “It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that things will be able to turn around,” says researcher Walt Meier, a glass-half-empty sort of chap. While a melting Arctic sucks for polar bears and Inuit subsistence hunters, The Man may profit from new shipping lanes, more-accessible oil supplies, commercial fishing grounds, and tourism. Next week, advisers plan to urge President Bush to get busy replacing the U.S.’s aging icebreakers. We only wish we were making that up.