Arctic could be free of summer sea ice by 2030

Press release - 17 September, 2009
As the minimum area of summer Arctic sea-ice extent was today reported to have plummeted to the third-lowest level ever in recorded history (1), the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is hosting world-class sea ice expert Dr. Peter Wadhams, on a mission to conduct research into sea-ice loss in the Arctic Ocean, off the northeast coast of Greenland.

"We’re entering a new epoch of sea ice melt in the Arctic Ocean due to climate change," said Dr. Peter Wadhams. "In five years’ time most of the sea-ice could be gone in summer withjust an 'Alamo of ice' remaining north of Ellesmere Island. In 20 years’ time, that will also be gone, leaving the Arctic Ocean completely ice-free in summer. It’s clear we can’t rely on current models of prediction for sea-ice melt, as they have been constantly outpaced since the 1980s."

Wadhams, of the University of Cambridge, is leading a team of five independent scientists who plan will use buoys moored to pressuredice, ice cores and a number of other methods to calculate the melt rate of ridgedice, a feature that accounts for over half the volume of ice in the Arctic Ocean and which is disappearing fast as a consequence of climate change, in orderto answer the question of why it is melting faster than non-ridged ice. The Arctic Sunrise will be working in the sea-ice of Fram Strait, between Greenland and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, until theend of the month supporting Wadhams’ sea ice research.

Sea-ice extent has been in decline for the last 30 years, but the speed of thatdecline has accelerated in the last decade and especially so in the last four years, outpacing scientific predictions. In 2007, the area of summer sea-ice extent reached a level that was not predicted to occur until 2080, with 2008 coming in a close second. While this year’s low sea-ice extent did not surpass those of 2007 and 2008, it does suggest another significant acceleration of sea-icemelt in the Arctic Ocean.

"Another record year of melting sea-ice makes for another deafening alarm about the state of the world’s climate," said Melanie Duchin, Expedition Leader onboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise. "World leaders must heed this alarmand forge an agreement that takes bold, ambitious and decisive action at the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen this December."

"What’s needed is a 40% cut in greenhouse gases by 2020 on the part of developed countries; they also need to invest $140 billion per year to help developing countries deal with the impacts of climate change, stop deforestation and switch to a low carbon economy. To do anything less is toignore the warnings we’re seeing in the Arcticand elsewhere that tell us that the climate is in serious peril."

VVPR info: To arrange an interview please contact the onshore press officer, Interviews with the ship can be conducted by satellite phone.

Onshore Press Officer – Lara Teunissen, , +31 64 616 2042

Photo and video are available from:International Photo Desk, John Novis,

China Mobile: (+ 86) 13910624914, UK Mobile: + 44 (0) 7801 615 889

International Video Desk – Maarten van Rouveroy , +31 646 197 322

Notes: Available for interview: Professor Peter Wadhams, Head of Polar Ocean Physics Group, University of Cambridge (onboard)

Melanie Duchin, Onboard Campaigner, Greenpeace International (onboard)

Kieran Mulvaney, Expedition Leader, Greenpeace International (onshore)

(1) The sea ice minimum extent was announced by the NSIDC at

Exp. contact date: 2009-09-29 00:00:00