Despite its straight-from-science-fiction premise, it's real: A group of scientists meeting at the White House to discuss a brand-new ocean. Impending Arctic ice melt makes this just another day in the geopolitics of climate change.
There's a bit of mystery shrouding the meeting, which apparently came to light after an Australian scientist's participation was reported in that country's press. It's not clear when it will take place, or if it already has. Details of attendance are similarly sketchy; The Guardian reports that it will include "Gale Allen, the director of the US National Science Foundation, Cora Marett, as well as representatives from the US Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon," and ten Arctic specialists including Carlos Duarte, the aforementioned Australian.
The topic of discussion, however, is clear. Last year, sea ice in the Arctic reached its lowest point in recorded history. Current estimates, including from Duarte, indicate that the region could be entirely ice-free in short order.
[Duarte] said melting of the ice was accelerating faster than any of the models could predict and the prospect of an Arctic Ocean free of ice had been brought forward to 2015, compared with a prediction in 2007 that at least one-third of the normal extent of sea ice would remain in summer in 2100.
The decline in ice volume has been a steady progression for decades, prompting some to label the drop as "the Arctic ice death spiral." Data visualization expert Jim Pettit illustrates the spiral, by presenting the average ice volume each September — the month during which the ice typically hits its lowest extent.