It could be too late now to save the Arctic summer ice, according to a study released on June 2023 in Nature Communications.
The study authored by a group of international scientists says that summer ice will disappear in September beginning as early as the 2030s, even with deep emissions cuts.
The study using the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 6 (CMIP6) models projects that the Arctic Ocean will become sea ice-free for the first time in September before 2050, regardless of emissions scenarios.
It based observations and predictions on the models – comparing multiple model simulations in an international effort to improve climate models. The CMIP6 has also been extensively used in various IPCC assessment reports since 1990.
However, the IPCC’s sixth assessment report estimates that the Arctic Ocean will become practically ice-free over 2081 to 2100 under intermediate and high emissions scenarios (SSP2-4.5, SSP3-7.0, and SSP5-8.5). Under low emissions scenario, there is still some uncertainty about whether the Arctic will become ice-free, the study notes.
Using satellite observations of the Arctic Ice in the last four decades and the best climate models, an international team from South Korea, Canada, and Germany, attribute the sea ice loss primarily to greenhouse gas emissions.
NASA has observed about a 13% sea ice loss per decade every September since satellite observation started in 1979 because of human-caused climate change. In 2021, the sea ice cover was its second lowest on record.
Prof Dirk Notz of the University of Hamburg, Germany, who was part of the study team, gave The Guardian a sobering statement: “Unfortunately, it has become too late to save Arctic summer sea ice.”
“As scientists, we’ve been warning about the loss of Arctic summer sea ice for decades. This is now the first major component of the Earth system that we will lose because of global warming. People didn’t listen to our warnings,” he added.
“This brings another warning bell that the kind of projections that we’ve made for other components of the Earth system will start unfolding in the decades to come,” Prof Notz says.
Prof Seung-Ki Min, of Pohang University, South Korea, who led the study, said: “The most important impact for human society will be the increase in weather extremes that we are experiencing now, such as heatwaves, wildfires, and floods. We need to reduce CO2 emissions more ambitiously and also prepare to adapt to this faster Arctic warming and its impacts on human society and ecosystems.”
The study demonstrates that GHG emissions are a significant force behind the Arctic Sea ice loss. It also shows that GHG influence is separable from other factors, including aerosols from human activities, solar and volcanic forcing, and natural internal variability, demonstrating an expanding human impact on the Arctic cryosphere.
“Our observationally-constrained projections based on attribution results also suggest that we may experience an unprecedented ice-free Arctic climate in the next decade or two, irrespective of emission scenarios. This would affect human society and the ecosystem both within and outside the Arctic, through changing Arctic marine activities as well as further accelerating the Arctic warming and thereby altering Arctic carbon cycling,” the study notes.
Read more about the study by clicking the link provided in the “Sources” section below.
Carrington, D. (2023, June 6). Too late now to save Arctic summer ice, climate scientists find. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jun/06/too-late-now-to-save-arctic-summer-ice-climate-scientists-find
Kim, YH., Min, SK., Gillett, N.P. et al. Observationally-constrained projections of an ice-free Arctic even under a low emission scenario. Nat Commun 14, 3139 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-38511-8