Arctic Ice Cap Melting Faster Than Predicted
A study published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters reports that the melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean is actually occurring faster than even the pessimistic predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Climate scientists may have significantly underestimated the power of global warming from human-generated heat-trapping gases to shrink the cap of sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean, according to a new study of polar trends.
The study, published online today in Geophysical Research Letters, concluded that an open-water Arctic in summers could be more likely in this century than had been estimated in the latest international review of climate research released in February by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“There are huge changes going on,” said Julienne Stroeve, a lead author of the new study and a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. “Just with warm waters entering the Arctic, combined with warming air temperatures, this is wreaking havoc on the sea ice, really.”
Dr. Stroeve’s team found that since 1953 the area of sea ice in September has declined at an average rate of 7.8 percent per decade. Computer climate simulations of the same period had an average rate of ice loss of 2.5 percent per decade.
The finding implies that the Arctic ice may be quicker to respond to warming as concentrations of heat-trapping gases rise in coming decades, said Marika Holland, an author of the new paper and a computer modeler at the Boulder climate center.
That’s pretty disturbing news, since arctic ice in the summer actually helps keep the Earth cool by reflecting sunlight. If that ice is melting faster than predicted, that could potentially lead to accelerated increases in global temperature.
The original study is located here. Alas, it is not available for free.