Climate Change Could Leave Arctic Ice-Free By 2050

Melissa Stusinski - Author

Aug. 23 2017, Updated 1:08 a.m. ET

Climate change may leave the Arctic ice-free by the year 2050. The northern polar region ice estimates were taken from a study by two federal government scientists whose main focus is climate change.

The researchers, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), believe that the Arctic could see major ice loss within the next two decades.

The researchers used three separate methods to make their predictions. Using those methods, they forecasted that the elimination of most ice during the Northern Hemisphere’s warm season will happen between 2020 and 2060.

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The Arctic is already experiencing rapid loss of its thick, multi-year sea ice in the past 12 years. The amount was less than halve the average of 1979-2000 last September. In the paper, James Overland and Muyin Wang write that the results show “very likely timing for future sea ice loss to the first half of the 21st century.”

The study is just one of many in recent months that point to the immediate impacts of global warming on Earth. While major sea ice loss will continue in the next couple of decades, some of it will still stick around near Greenland and Canada’s Arctic islands. Wang released a statement acknowledging that there is “no perfect way” to measure the potential Arctic ice loss. The researcher added:

“So we looked at three approaches that result in widely different dates, but all three suggest nearly sea ice-free summers in the Arctic before the middle of this century.”

All three models gave the two NOAA researchers essentially the same conclusion — the Arctic will likely see its first ice-free summer before 2050. It may even happen by 2025 or 2035. Arctic ice loss is a problem not only for the region, but also for the world. It can open additional shipping lanes by exposing more ocean, but it can also raise the level of the seas, causing potential flooding to coastal areas and islands.

The prevalence of Arctic sea ice loss is one of the most viable indicators of climate change, according to Overland.

[Image via NOAA]


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