Arctic Sea Ice May Expand Or Contract Over Next Decade, Before Disappearing By Mid-Century

arctic sea ice in summer photo

Apropos of Arctic sea ice melting on track to set a new record low this year: There's some new research on how quickly we might see an entirely ice-free summer. Scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research discovered an unexpected result in their computer simulations of Arctic ice melting:

"One of the results that surprised us all was the number of computer simulations that indicated a temporary halt to the loss of the ice," says NCAR scientist Jennifer Kay, the lead author. "The computer simulations suggest that we could see a 10-year period of stable ice or even a slight increase in the extent of the ice. Even though the observed ice loss has accelerated over the last decade, the fate of sea ice over the next decade depends not only on human activity but also on climate variability that cannot be predicted." (Science Daily)

Kay points out that though the fate of sea ice over the next decade may be in question--in these simulations Arctic sea ice was equally likely to expand or contract in the short-term under the climate conditions of the late 20th and early 21st century--but the fact that we will see an ice-free Arctic some time this century is not.

Kay says, "When you start looking at longer-term trends, 50 to 60 years, there's no escaping the loss of ice in the summer."

The original research behind this has been published in Geophysical Research Letters. For the more summary inclined, Science Daily has more info as well.

In the past few years there have been numerous research claims about when we will experience the first ice-free summer in the Arctic (in the past 100,000 years at least). The most aggressive of these claims places that date at 2015.

More on Arctic Sea Ice
Arctic Sea Ice Sets New Record Low For July
Arctic Sea Ice Loss Confirmed As Main Cause of Faster Polar Warming

Tags: Arctic | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects


treehugger slideshows