On Capitol Hill on July 22, 2010, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) predicetd there would be an "ice-free Arctic" in "5 or 10 years." (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)
(CNSNews.com) – Speaking at a town hall-style meeting promoting climate change legislation on Thursday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) predicted there will be “an ice-free Arctic” in "five or 10 years."

“The arctic ice is disappearing faster than was predicted,” Kerry said. “And instead of waiting until 2030 or whenever it was to have an ice-free Arctic, we’re going to have one in five or 10 years.”

However, the Web site of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says: “Using the observed 2007/2008 summer sea ice extents as a starting point, computer models predict that the Arctic could be nearly sea ice free in summertime within 30 years.”

NOAA cites as its source on Arctic sea ice a study published in the April 3, 2009 edition of Geophysical Research Letters by J.E. Overland and Muyin Wang. (Overland works for NOAA at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Wang is at the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington, in Seattle.)

In their study, Overland and Wang “predict an expected value for a nearly sea ice free Arctic in September by the year 2037.” They also note in their summary, however, that “a sea ice free Arctic in September may occur as early as the late 2020s” based on their analysis of six computer models.

Muyin Wang told CNSNews.com that she and her colleague analyzed the six models, which generated earlier and later estimates of an ice-free Arctic sea in summer months, and the median was the year 2037. The amount of ice in the Arctic sea fluctuates throughout the year – more in winter, less in summer – and Wang said there would always be ice in the Arctic sea during the winter months.

When asked about Kerry’s statement that the Arctic sea would be ice-free in five to 10 years, Wang said that time-range is an extreme case scenario.

“That’s the extreme case,” Wang said. “To me, that could be, but it’s less than a 50 percent chance.”

CNSNews.com called Sen. Kerry’s office on Thursday to ask for the source of the senator’s assertion that there will be “an ice-free Arctic” in five to ten years. The office directed CNSNews.com to contact Kerry press secretary Whitney Smith by email. Smith did not respond to repeated emails asking the source for Kerry’s assertion about the Arctic ice.

Kerry’s remarks came during the second of three panels at an event sponsored by Clean Energy Works, an environmentalist coalition that brought supporters of to Washington, D.C., to show what it called “broad support” for a “clean energy and climate bill.”

Along with Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Kerry is the sponsor of the American Power Act, a bill that would cap carbon emissions in the United States in the interest of preventing climate change.

In his talk on Thursday, Kerry said environmental degradation is happening faster than previously anticipated.

“Every single area of the science, where predictions have been made, is coming back faster – worse than was predicted,” Kerry said. “The levels of carbon dioxide that are going into the ocean is higher. The acidity is higher. It’s damaging the ecosystem of the oceans.”

“You know, all of our marine crustaceans that depend on the formation of their shells -- that acidity undoes that,” he said. “Coral reefs – the spawning grounds for fish. Run that one down and you’ll see the dangers.

Kerry further said: “Predictions of sea level rise are now 3 to 6 feet. They’re higher than were originally going to be predicted over the course of this century because nothing’s happening. But the causes and effects are cumulative.”

“The Audubon Society – not exactly, you know, an ideological entity on the right or the left or wherever in America – has reported that its members are reporting a hundred-mile swath in the United States of America where plants, shrubs, trees, flowers – things that used to grow -- don’t grow any more,” Kerry said.