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Arctic Ice Free Summers Sooner Than Thought -
Ecological Systems In Great Danger!

13 April, 2013


MessageToEagle.com -

Before 2050 and possibly within the next decade or two, there will be nearly ice-free summers, but "when," say scientists studying summer sea ice in the Arctic.

"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 James Overland of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

Overland and Muyin Wang of the NOAA Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean at University of Washington, looked at three methods of predicting when the Arctic will be nearly ice free in the summer.



Click on image to enlarge

The Polar Vortex

Cold air is normally trapped in the Arctic in winter by strong Polar Vortex winds, which circle the North Pole from west to east and the strong pressure field that is shown in purple/blue colors in Figure 1a, below left. This pattern broke down in December 2009, and in February 2010, (Figures 1b and 1c, below middle and right). North-south winds increased, allowing cold Arctic air to spill southwards. Credits: NOAA/ESRL Physical Sciences Division.


"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.
Data shows that this approach suggests a nearly sea ice-free Arctic by about 2030 but with large uncertainty in timing.



Click on image to enlarge

An analysis from the CryoSat-2 satellite indicates that 900 cubic kilometres of Arctic ice has disappeared each year since 2004. At such a rate, scientists warn the Arctic could be ice-free in 10 years. (Kathryn Hansen/NASA/Reuters)


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.

"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," Overland said.

The work was published recently online in the American Geophysical Union publication Geophysical Research Letters.

© MessageToEagle.com

See also:
Arctic Region Becomes Warmer And Greener

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