The Arctic will be ‘ice-free’ in summer within the next two decades, suggests a study that found a rapid acceleration in the loss of sea ice.

Based on research undertaken by Polar Ocean Physics Group from Cambridge University, it was suggested that cargo ships will be able to sail in open water to the North Pole in the summer of 2020. It will also mean that the Earth will lose the white cap that can be seen in photographs taken from space.

The route would be ice-free for several months every year, cutting more than 3,000 miles from the normal journey from the Far East to Europe via the Suez Canal, The Times online reported today.

“The North Pole will be exposed in ten years. You would be able to sail a Japanese car carrier across the North Pole and out into the Atlantic,” Mr. Peter Wadhams, Professor of Ocean Physics at Cambridge, was quoted as saying by British daily.

He expressed the fear that the ice will retreat to a zone north of Greenland and Ellesmere Island by 2020 and that area will be less than half the present summer area. “The change in the Arctic summer sea ice is the biggest impact global warming is having on the physical appearance of the planet,” he said.