New research published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change confirms predictions that the Arctic could be free of sea ice by 2035. It is reported by the British Antarctic Survey.
High temperatures in the Arctic during the last interglacial – a warm period some 127,000 years ago – have puzzled scientists for decades. Now, the Hadley Center climate model, created by the UK Meteorological Office, has allowed an international team of researchers to compare the ice conditions of the last interglacial in the Arctic with the present. Their findings are important for improving forecasts of future sea ice changes.
In spring and early summer, shallow bodies of water form on the surface of the Arctic sea ice. These melt ponds help to understand how much sunlight is absorbed by ice and how much is reflected back into space. The new Hadley Center model is the most advanced physical representation of the Earth’s climate in the UK. It is also an essential tool for climate research – a model that includes sea ice and thawed ponds.
Using a model to study sea ice in the Arctic during the last interglacial period, scientists concluded that intense spring sunlight had created many melting ponds that played a crucial role in the disappearance of sea ice. Simulations of the future using the same model show that the Arctic could lose sea ice by 2035.
We know that the Arctic is undergoing significant changes as our planet heats up. By understanding what happened in the last warm period of the Earth, we are in a better position to understand what will happen in the future. The prospect of sea ice disappearing by 2035 should really focus all our minds on achieving a low-carbon world as soon as humans can.
Dr. Louise Syme, Paleoclimate Team Leader and Lead Author at BAS