The Arctic is warming about twice as fast as the global average, and the area of the Arctic covered by ice in the summer is shrinking. The quality of the ice cover that is its thickness is also decreasing.
Using satellite data and advanced analytical tools scientists have predicted that the Arctic will be free of summer ice by 2040.
What is causing the Arctic ice to melt? It is clearly due to global warming and partly also due to a shift in wind patterns from time to time.
Hitherto the Arctic ice presented a bright surface which reflected most of the sun's energy back into the atmosphere. But with dark spaces of open water increasing the sun's energy is being absorbed by the Arctic waters thereby increasing their temperature and would not only accelerate the decay of Arctic ice but also climate change across the world.
This will have major consequences for not only wildlife in the region like the polar bears, but an Arctic free from ice will fundamentally change the lives of those who live there.
Apart from opening up new sea routes and a consequent increase in trade and commerce the world may gain access to the mineral resources that are known to lie below the Arctic sea bed. Russia's Arctic North is estimated to contain up to 25% of the world's oil and gas reserves. The total reserves may be much more. Little wonder then that the Russians have been claiming most of the Arctic as belonging to them and this also explains why only recently they planted the Russian flag below the North Pole. The Canadians too have begun to claim large parts of the Arctic.
As the world's ice disappears, glaciers would melt, fresh water supplies would reduce and sea levels rise across the world. It is high time the world got together to fight global warming.