Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Arctic nearly free of summer sea ice during first half of 21st century, experts predict

Date:
April 12, 2013
Source:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Summary:
For scientists studying summer sea ice in the Arctic, it's not a question of "if" there will be nearly ice-free summers, but "when." And two scientists say that "when" is sooner than many thought -- before 2050 and possibly within the next decade or two.

NOAA scientists explore the Arctic during a 2005 mission.
Credit: NOAA

For scientists studying summer sea ice in the Arctic, it's not a question of "if" there will be nearly ice-free summers, but "when." And two scientists say that "when" is sooner than many thought -- before 2050 and possibly within the next decade or two.

James Overland of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Muyin Wang of the NOAA Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington, looked at three methods of predicting when the Arctic will be nearly ice free in the summer. The work was published recently online in the American Geophysical Union publication Geophysical Research Letters.

"Rapid Arctic sea ice loss is probably the most visible indicator of global climate change; it leads to shifts in ecosystems and economic access, and potentially impacts weather throughout the northern hemisphere," said Overland. "Increased physical understanding of rapid Arctic climate shifts and improved models are needed that give a more detailed picture and timing of what to expect so we can better prepare and adapt to such changes. Early loss of Arctic sea ice gives immediacy to the issue of climate change."

"There is no one perfect way to predict summer sea ice loss in the Arctic," said Wang. "So we looked at three approaches that result in widely different dates, but all three suggest nearly sea ice-free summers in the Arctic before the middle of this century."

Overland and Wang emphasized that the term "nearly" ice free is important as some sea ice is expected to remain north of the Canadian Archipelago and Greenland.

  • The "trendsetters" approach uses observed sea ice trends. These data show that the total amount of sea ice decreased rapidly over the previous decade. Using those trends, this approach extrapolates to a nearly sea ice-free Arctic by 2020.
  • The "stochasters" approach is based on assuming future multiple, but random in time, large sea ice loss events such as those that occurred in 2007 and 2012. This method estimates it would take several more events to reach a nearly sea ice-free state in the summer. Using the likelihood of such events, this approach suggests a nearly sea ice-free Arctic by about 2030 but with large uncertainty in timing.
  • The "modelers" approach is based on using the large collection of global climate model results to predict atmosphere, ocean, land, and sea ice conditions over time. These models show the earliest possible loss of sea ice to be around 2040 as greenhouse gas concentrations increase and the Arctic warms. But the median timing of sea ice loss in these models is closer to 2060. There are several reasons to consider that this median timing of sea ice loss in these models may be too slow.

"Some people may interpret this to mean that models are not useful. Quite the opposite," said Overland. "Models are based on chemical and physical climate processes and we need better models for the Arctic as the importance of that region continues to grow."

Taken together, the range among the multiple approaches still suggests that it is very likely that the timing for future sea ice loss will be within the first half of the 21st century, with a possibility of major loss within a decade or two.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. James E. Overland, Muyin Wang. When will the summer arctic be nearly sea ice free? Geophysical Research Letters, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/grl.50316

Cite This Page:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Arctic nearly free of summer sea ice during first half of 21st century, experts predict." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130412142848.htm>.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2013, April 12). Arctic nearly free of summer sea ice during first half of 21st century, experts predict. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130412142848.htm
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Arctic nearly free of summer sea ice during first half of 21st century, experts predict." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130412142848.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins