Melting glaciers 'threaten UK'

Melting ice in the Arctic could end up costing Britain billions of pounds. Leading scientists have told ITV News that the country needs to prepare now for the increased threat of flooding caused by rising sea levels.

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North Pole web camera tracks a changing Arctic

Dr Jamie Morison of the North Pole Environmental Observatory has been travelling to the Arctic for decades to plant web cameras and other instruments to monitor the air, ice and ocean.

Watch his interview with ITV News' Science Editor Lawrence McGinty here.

You can see the North Pole changing during the summer of 2012 in this time-lapse video, as well as an apparent visit by a polar bear:


Is Arctic climate change causing extreme weather here?

After a record cold March and the lowest recorded April temperature in the UK for a century just last week, the Met Office has told ITV News that the causes need to be investigated as a matter of urgency.

ITV News science editor Lawrence McGinty has made the rare journey to the heart of the Arctic to investigate the theory that shrinking sea ice levels are linked to record low temperatures in Britain:

Watch Lawrence McGinty's full report on ITV News at 6.30pm and 10pm tonight.

How extreme was the cold weather this winter?

The winter just ending was unusual for its cold and dry conditions, and for how long it lasted.

Some scientists have warned that early data suggests British weather is being influenced by the rapid melting of ice in the Arctic, and that such winters are becoming more frequent.

This winter:

  • March 2013 was the coldest on record since 1962
  • Average temperature this March was 2.2C - 3.3 degrees below the average temperature for March
  • A reading of -11.2C was taken in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, on April 2nd, making it the coldest night since 1917
  • Possible that the December to March period will be comparable with the winters of 2010/11, 2009/10 and those of the mid-1980s.

ITV News Science Editor Lawrence McGinty will be filing reports on the changing Arctic for the rest of this week. Watch the first of his reports on ITV News at 1.30pm.


Last year saw record low in Arctic sea ice

Arctic sea ice fluctuates as it melts in the summer months and freezes in the winter, but since about 2007 the area covered by sea ice has reduced rapidly.

Last September, the area covered by Arctic ice shrunk to just 1.32 million square miles - the lowest on record.

The image below compares the ice extent last September to the average for this time of year seen over the last three decades.

White area shows ice coverage at its lowest ever level in September 2012. Yellow shows the average ice coverage over the past 30 years. Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

These images show a comparison of the perennial Arctic sea ice and the first-year sea ice in 2012.

Bright white shows perennial sea ice; larger light blue area shows winter sea ince Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Between 70% and 75% of ice in the Arctic is now thought to be 'first-year' ice, which is less than a year old. In the past, three quarters was made up of 'multi-year ice' which is older and much thicker.

Arctic changes 'very likely' affecting UK weather

A leading climate scientist has told ITV News that she believes it is "very likely" that the warming of the Arctic is affecting weather patterns in the northern hemisphere, and particularly in the UK.

Dr Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University in the US, said the unusual weather in the UK is consistent with the theory that a warming Arctic is influencing the jet stream - the river of fast-moving air high above the Earth's surface.

ITV News' Science Editor Lawrence McGinty asked how far the UK's extended winter can be blamed on this effect:

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