Arctic could be free of sea ice in summer by 2030, warns new study | Cnn

Lisi Niesner/Reuters

Ice on Svalbard, Norway, April 6, 2023. This part of the Arctic is warming up to seven times faster than the global average.


The Arctic could be free of sea ice about a decade sooner than expected, scientists warn another clear sign that the climate crisis is happening faster than expected as the world continues to pump out planet-warming pollution.

A new study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications found that Arctic sea ice could disappear completely during September as early as 2030. Even if the world makes significant cuts in global warming pollution today, the Arctic could still see sea ​​ice-free summers by 2050, scientists report.

The researchers analyzed the changes from 1979 to 2019, comparing different satellite data and climate models to assess how Arctic sea ice was changing.

They found that sea ice decline was largely the result of human-caused pollution and global warming, and previous models had underestimated melting trends in Arctic sea ice.

We were surprised to find that there will be an ice-free Arctic in the summer, regardless of our efforts to reduce emissions, which we did not expect, Seung-Ki Min, lead author of the study and a professor at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea, he told CNN.

Arctic ice builds up during the winter and then melts in the summer, typically reaching its lowest levels in September, before the cycle starts again.

Once Arctic summers become ice-free, sea ice accumulation in colder seasons will be much slower, Min said. The hotter it gets, the more likely it is that the Arctic will remain sea ice-free during the colder season. cold.

Under a path of higher emissions where the world continues to burn fossil fuels and levels of pollution that warm the planet continue to rise the study predicts that the Arctic will see a complete loss of sea ice from August through October before 2080, Min said.

Lisi Niesner/Reuters

Arctic sea ice near the coast of Svalbard, Norway, April 5, 2023.

The study’s findings contrast with the 2021 State of the Science report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which found that the Arctic would be virtually ice-free by mid-century under intermediate greenhouse gas emission scenarios. and elevated.

This new study shows it could happen 10 years sooner, regardless of emission scenarios, Min said.

In recent decades, the Arctic has warmed four times faster than the rest of the world, a 2022 study showed. There has already been rapid sea ice loss in the region, with September sea ice shrinking at a rate of 12.6% per decade, according to NASA.

An Arctic without summer sea ice would send terrible ripple effects around the world. The bright white ice reflects solar energy away from the Earth. As this ice melts, it exposes the darker ocean, which absorbs more heat causing further warming, a feedback process called Arctic amplification.

Sea ice decline can also have an effect on global climate that extends far beyond the Arctic.

We need to prepare very soon for a world with a warmer Arctic, Min said. Since the warming Arctic is suggested to bring extreme weather events such as heatwaves, wildfires and floods to northern mid- and high-latitudes, the earlier start of an ice-free Arctic also implies that we will experience extreme events faster than expected.

A sea ice-free Arctic could also lead to increased commercial shipping as new routes open, which would have a knock-on effect. According to last year’s annual Arctic Scoreboard from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, increased shipping traffic would lead to more emissions and pollution in the region.

Mika Rantanen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute and lead author of the 2022 study, told CNN that the study released on Tuesday benefited from an innovative and cutting-edge methodology to predict when the Arctic will be ice-free.

The methodology is very careful and carries a high degree of certainty in the attribution, said Rantanen, who was not involved in the study. The most surprising finding is not that the loss of sea ice is attributed to rising greenhouse gases, which was already widely known, but that they project an ice-free Arctic sooner than previously thought by about a decade.

Min said the findings show the Arctic is on the verge of becoming very ill and the region has reached a tipping point.

We can look at Arctic sea ice as our body’s immune system that protects our body from harmful things, Min said. Without the protector, conditions in the Arctic will quickly go from bad to worse.

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