With warming climate, summer sea ice in the Arctic has been shrinking fast, and now consistently spans less than half the area it did in the early 1980s.
With warming climate, summer sea ice in the Arctic has been shrinking fast, and now consistently spans less than half the area it did in the early 1980s. This raises the question: If this keeps up, in the future will year-round sea ice—and the creatures who need it to survive—persist anywhere?
A new study addresses this question, and the results are daunting. The study targets a 1 million-square kilometer region north of Greenland and the coasts of the Canadian Archipelago, where year-round sea ice has traditionally been thickest, and thus likely to be most resilient. It says that under both optimistic and pessimistic scenarios, by 2050 summer ice in this region will dramatically thin. Under the optimistic scenario, if carbon emissions can be brought to heel by then, some summer ice could persist indefinitely. However, under the pessimistic scenario, in which emissions continue on their current path, summer ice would disappear by 2100, along with creatures such as seals and polar bears. The study appears in the journal Earth’s Future.
“Unfortunately, this is a massive experiment we’re doing,” said study coauthor Robert Newton, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “If the year-round ice goes away, entire ice-dependent ecosystems will collapse, and something new will begin.”
Read more at Earth Institute at Columbia University
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