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The North Pole could be ice-free in just five years

Homeless SantaLast week the ice at the North Pole melted at an "unprecedented rate." And that has some scientists worrying that the Arctic could become ice-free during the summers as early as 2013, the Guardian reports.

The storms over the Alaska's Beaufort Sea last week brought with them not just bad weather but also streams of hot air into the Arctic. Satellite images that were taken shortly after could show that the ice caps had started to "disintegrate dramatically." And because of that the scientists believes that the melting could exceed last year's record loss of ice.

'It is a neck-and-neck race between 2007 and this year over the issue of ice loss,' said Mark Serreze, of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado. 'We thought Arctic ice cover might recover after last year's unprecedented melting - and indeed the picture didn't look too bad last month. Cover was significantly below normal, but at least it was up on last year.

'But the Beaufort Sea storms triggered steep ice losses and it now looks as if it will be a very close call indeed whether 2007 or 2008 is the worst year on record for ice cover over the Arctic. We will only find out when the cover reaches its minimum in mid-September.'

These huge losses of Arctic sea ice will result in "major meteorological, environmental and ecological" consequences, such as: More and heavier storms being swept into Britain, polar bears and seals losing their habitats, rising sea levels and a further increased in global temperatures.

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