Environment

Arctic Ocean may be ice-free within 20 years

Arctic Ocean may be ice-free w...
The Arctic could have an ice-free summer by the middle of the century
The Arctic could have an ice-free summer by the middle of the century
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The Arctic could have an ice-free summer by the middle of the century
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The Arctic could have an ice-free summer by the middle of the century

The Arctic Ocean could experience an ice-free summer at some time in the next 20 years, according to a newly-published study. The thawing is due to a combination of a natural warming phase, coupled with the effects of human-induced climate change.

Multiple studies have predicted that the Arctic is trending towards an ice-free summer around the middle of the century. This would happen in the month of September. However, natural temperature fluctuations that occur within Earth's oceans, known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), make it hard to pin down exactly when it will occur.

Earth's oceans represent an incredibly dynamic environment, with shifts in temperature from day to day and month to month. Large-scale ocean processes, such as the IPO, can cause a relatively dramatic shift. The IPO occurs in the tropical Pacific, and goes through distinct cycles during which it shifts ocean temperature from warm to cold, and then from cold to warm.

Each cycle takes between 10 to 30 years, and sees the temperature shift by approximately 0.5°C (0.9°F). This may not sound like a lot, but it's enough to significantly influence the speed at which sea ice is disappearing.

Roughly five years ago, the IPO shifted phase, and began warming the ocean.

The computer model used in the new study, which is being led by Britain's University of Exeter, was able to take into account the effect that the IPO has on ocean temperature. The team plotted predictions as to when the Arctic Ocean would experience its first iceless summer with the IPO shifting from cold to warm, and then compared the results with simulations that had the IPO shifting in the opposite direction.

According to the results of the new simulations, the great Arctic Ocean thaw will occur some time between the year 2030 and 2050. The researchers discovered that, when the IPO is in a warming phase, as it is now in the real world, the projection of the first ice-free summer is brought forward by roughly seven years when compared to when the IPO is progressing through a cold phase.

Furthermore, the team believe that the first ice-free summer will occur much closer to the year 2030 than previously believed. Human-induced global warming is the leading cause of ice-loss in the Arctic Ocean, and so our willingness to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be the determining factor in the timing of the thaw.

A paper detailing the findings has been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Source: American Geophysical Union

17 comments
aki009
Haven't we put this one to bed already? So what are these Cassandras going to do if nothing happens in 10 years? Make another dire prediction for the next 10? They've already done it twice, so it's getting a bit stale.
Nobody
I remember reading 10 years ago that the Arctic would be free of ice by now and would be a boon to shipping.
aksdad
Ice-free by 2040? Not according to the measured sea ice trends at the National Snow & Ice Data Center. See graph at https://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/charctic-interactive-sea-ice-graph/. See data at https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/sotc/sea_ice.html. The lowest year was 2012 and summer ice minimum extend has been increasing since then. But why believe measured data when computer models are so much more fun?
Kwetla
I'm always surprised by the amount of climate change deniers who read (and comment on) this website. Either there are more of them out there than I thought, or they all congregate here for whatever reason.
windykites
So, there is a natural 12-20 year warm-to-cold mechanism. Are we being told that the climate varies? Well, what do you know? I remember in the 70's we were told we were heading for an ice age. I have just taken my diesel car out for a spin. It was a guilt trip.
Nobody
Kwetla, Most people aren't really climate change deniers but they can see through the hype, financial and political motives of those that are pounding us daily with more horror stories and proposing solutions that will increase their wealth and power but not really do much if anything about the climate. When we read articles like this we yawn and say bull. An alarm bell rings every time the words "computer model" come up. Anyone who has worked with computer models will tell you that they don't prove anything. I remember working with five xray interference models. They were all mathematically sound but gave very different answers. Which answer did we accept? The one that we had already predetermined was the most correct. Was it right? I'm 99.9999% sure we don't really know for sure. We used to joke that we could throw the daily temperature in Miami into the equation and correlate it to the data. That was a joke that now seems to have a life of its own.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Ninety five per cent of the greenhouse effect on the Earth is due to water vapor. The remaining five per cent is mostly split between carbon dioxide and methane. Water vapor represents about 80 % of the man made component. This is mostly due to desert irrigation. About 1 % of the total is due to man made CO2. Making more wood is the best way to address this. The water vapor problem is best addressed by ending desert irrigation. This would also help by increasing the Earth's albedo.
Scot42
Come on...admit it...this was written by Al Gore, right?
musheen
How about reporting on something that's ACTUALLY happening like pole shifting, instead of this panic mongering nonsense?
ljaques
People who use the term "deniers" are extremists who would: 1) ban all technology around fossil fuel and its production, including cars, trains, airplanes, global shipping, jets, rockets (no more space for us!), gas furnaces, oil (no more plastic, no more asphalt, no fires hot enough to make cement, no more lubricants or machinery, no more paraffin, no more perfume, no more insecticides, and much less sulfur) etc. 2) mandate genocide on the bovine species (because of their methane production, which means legumes may be next on their agenda) [and this is just touching on the subject] 3) their adherents and "scientists" lie, cheat, and steal to make things look worse than they really are. (Algore's movie banned in UK schools) All this to get their precious degree of cooling, only to find out that it didn't make a bloody =iota= of difference in global temps. Their scientists add dozens of new data points each year trying to make their climate model work, yet it never pans out. I'll sure be happier when this Global Warming/Climate Change fad (major scam) wears out, like their Global Cooling fad did in the '70s.