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Melting Arctic sea ice could vanish a decade earlier than expected

Jun 8

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New research published by Nature Communications has raised concerns about the possible devastating consequences from the loss of Arctic sea ice. Scientists now believe that this threat is even more imminent than previously anticipated, with potentially irreversible man-made factors exacerbating the situation.

According to the study, Arctic sea ice could vanish entirely during the summer months as early as the 2030s. This prediction contrasts with a 2021 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change state-of-the-science report that projected the Arctic to become ice-free by mid-century. The new information suggests that this transformation could occur a decade earlier than expected.

“We were surprised to find that an ice-free Arctic will be there in summer irrespective of our effort at reducing emissions, which was not expected,” said Seung-Ki Min, lead author of the study and professor at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea.

To arrive at the conclusion regarding the reduction of sea ice, researchers analyzed data spanning four decades and determined that human-caused, planet-heating pollution is the primary driver behind the decline. Even if significant efforts were made to reduce such pollution today, the study suggests that sea ice during Arctic summers could still become a thing of the past by the 2050s.

“We can regard the Arctic sea ice as the immune system of our body which protects our body from harmful things,” Min explained. “Without the protector, the Arctic’s condition will go from bad to worse quickly.”

Global efforts to reduce emissions and slow down the melting of sea ice may not be forthcoming. The reduction of sea ice is expected to lead to an increase in commercial shipping, as new routes open up, bringing more emissions and pollution to the area that will further aggravate this problem.

The effects of a future with no summer sea ice in the Arctic would be felt worldwide. Scientists believe that this scenario would result in weather extremes such as heat waves, wildfires, and floods throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Over the past several decades, studies have demonstrated that the Arctic has warmed four times faster than the rest of the world, intensifying concerns about the future of the region.

“We need to prepare ourselves for a world with warmer Arctic very soon,” Min said. “The earlier onset of an ice-free Arctic also implies that we will be experiencing extreme events faster than predicted.”

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