May 13, 2009 / 7:53 PM / 10 years ago

Arctic explorers find more evidence of global thaw

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A team of British adventurers measuring ice conditions in the Canadian Arctic said on Wednesday they did not find the thicker, older ice that scientists expected to be there.

An undated handout photo from the Center for Northern Studies shows the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf disintegrating. REUTERS/Denis Sarrazin/Center for Northern Studies/Handout

Instead they found only the thinner, predominantly first-year ice that is likely to melt in summer months, in what could be another sign of the impact climate change is having on the Arctic ice sheets.

“Whereas the scientists who had been advising us had predicted it would be a mixture of this (new ice) and the older, thicker, multi-layer ice. We saw no evidence of that,” said Pen Hadow, leader of the Catlin Arctic Survey team.

The scientists had predicted the team would find ice with a thickness of about 3 meters, but the average thickness they found was 1.773 meters, Hadow said.

“That raises more questions than it answers,” he said, in a satellite phone interview with other members of the group that was webcast from the Arctic.

The three-member team was airlifted from the ice on Wednesday, having completed a 73-day trip that covered 434 km over the frozen Arctic Ocean from northern Canada toward the North Pole.

The group had hoped to stay on the ice until late May, but decided to end the mission on Wednesday after determining the weather and ice conditions were better now for the aircraft needed to remove them and their equipment.

“It’s now time to get off the ice,” Hadow said.

Hadow said the group was able to take about 1,500 measurements of the ice thickness and density during the journey, collecting data for scientific analysis.

Some scientists have warned that the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and link the higher temperatures to the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

The sea ice cover shrank to a record low in 2007 before growing slightly in 2008.

Reporting by Allan Dowd; Editing by Frank McGurty

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