Arctic meltdown speeds up

Ice at the North Pole melted at an unprecedented rate last week, satellite images show. The rapid disintegration started several days ago, when storms over Alaska's Beaufort Sea began sucking warm air into the Arctic, the Observer reported.

Scientists say the disappearing sea ice this year could exceed last year’s record loss, when more than 1 million square kilometres melted over the summer. "We will only find out when the cover reaches its minimum in mid-September," the Observer quoted Mark Serreze, of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, as saying.

Without the cooling influence of the ice on the northern hemisphere, weather patterns will be badly disrupted, the report said. Coastlines, no longer be insulated by ice from wave damage, will suffer erosion and sea levels may rise, threatening low-lying regions around the world.

"When we did the first climate change computer models, we thought the Arctic’s summer ice cover would last until around 2070," Peter Wadhams, a professor at Cambridge University, was quoted as saying. "Every few years we have to revise our estimates downwards."

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