The potential landmark thaw - the first time in human history the pole would be ice-free - is a stark sign of , according to an article Friday on the web site of the The Independent, a London newspaper.
"Symbolically it is hugely important," said Mark Serreze of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado. "There is supposed to be ice at the , not open water."
Last year, the fabled Northwest Passage opened as Arctic ice retreated more than ever before.
There is no land at the North Pole, but as long as anyone has looked, it has remained a giant block of ice year-round. Scientists have been watching Arctic sea ice melt more and more each year. But each summer in recent years, the amount of ice has gotten thinner and thinner. Each winter's freeze, therefore, results in a thinner pack that, this summer, could melt altogether.
"The issue is that, for the first time that I am aware of, the North Pole is covered with extensive first-year ice," Serreze is quoted by The Independent. "I'd say it's even-odds whether the North Pole melts out."
Russia and other countries, meanwhile, have been arguing over who has rights to the region's resources, including potential oil reserves.
More oil to fight over...great.