Disappearing arctic ice cap may flood asia

The Arctic ice cap is shrinking at a rate faster than originally predicted.

That the Arctic ice cap is shrinking has long made headlines, but the question of when it will completely disappear remains up in the air.

While scientists have predicted a variety of dates, if the head of the Norwegian International Polar Year Secretariat, Olav Orheim, is to be believed, the ice cap could be completely gone by as early as summer of this year.

The Arctic ice sheet, which is shrinking at a rate faster than originally predicted, hit the historical low of 3 million square kilometers (km2) in area during the hottest weeks of summer 2007, compared to 7.5 million km2 on average before the year 2000, Orheim said, according to news reports. The shrinking Arctic ice cap even produced a new sea route from the Bering Strait to Oslo last summer, he said.

Regardless of when the polar cap disappears, Asia will be hardest hit when it does. A one-meter rise in sea level will adversely affect nearly 100 million people on an 800,000 km2 area in Asia, with economic losses amounting to $400 billion.

According to a United Nations report in 2007, the world's average temperature could rise by as much as 6oC by the end of the century, causing serious harm worldwide.