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    Arctic ice melting rapidly: polar explorer

    By David Ljunggren

    OTTAWA (Reuters) - Summer temperatures in the Arctic have risen at an incredible rate over the past three years and large patches of what should be ice are now open water, a British polar explorer said on Monday.

    Ben Saunders, forced by the warm weather to abandon an attempt to ski solo from northern Russia across the North Pole to Canada, said he had been amazed at how much of the ice had melted.

    "It's obvious to me that things are changing a lot and changing very quickly," a sunburned Saunders told Reuters less than two days after being rescued from the thinning ice sheet close to the North Pole.

    "I do know it's happening because that was my third time in the Arctic (in the last three years)," said Saunders, who explored the region in 2001 and 2003.

    An international study last year said global warming would melt most of the Arctic icecap in summertime by the end of the century. Many scientists blame the rising temperatures on human emissions of greenhouse gases while others point to what they say are longer-term natural warming and cooling cycles.

    "The temperatures were incredibly warm ... I had days when I could ski with no gloves and no hat at all, just in bare hands, because I was too hot," said Saunders.

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