A University of Calgary researcher is looking into the behavior and composition of Canada’s Arctic ice pack and is concerned about the speed with which it is changing and melting.

John Yackel compared this years ice levels to historical records and he is convinced that the Arctic ice cover is disappearing and there is almost nothing that can be done about it.

“This is the smallest extent of ice cover we have seen in the last 33 years, possibly a million years,” said Yackel.“There’s likely not a lot we can do to stop the feedback loop, I’m talking about where the sun melts more ice, exposes more water, allows more sunlight to be absorbed and that feedback loop is well underway and it will be very hard to stop it with any changes we make in the near or midterm future."

Yackel examined satellite imagery of the ice covering the Arctic Ocean and compared it to historical satellite imagery and records.

His analysis has determined that the level of ice is at an all time low and Yackel says the quality of the ice that remains has changed, allowing more of it to melt each year.

He says that creates a cycle of warming and melting that could eventually see all the arctic ice disappear.

“The Arctic will be ice free in the summer time and that will affect the food chain and all sorts of other marine mammals that depend on the ice.”

Yackel says the problems won't crop up immediately and could take several generations.

In the meantime it could provide some economic benefits to Canada’s northern centres as more shipping routes open up through the Northwest Passage.