If the world keeps increasing its greenhouse gas emissions at the current speed, sea ice in the Arctic is expected to disappear in the 2030s; this may, at best, be postponed till the 2050s should emissions be lowered. This prediction is a decade earlier than what was estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): the ice-free Arctic by 2040s.
A possible ice-free Arctic in 2030-2050 was projected irrespective of humanity’s efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions by Professors Seung-Ki Min and Yeon-Hee Kim associated with the Pohang University of Science and Technology (abbreviated POSTECH), precisely with the Division of Environmental Science and Engineering, as well as a collaborative group of researchers from Universität Hamburg in Germany and Environment Climate Change Canada. The research is published in Nature Communications, an international journal.
“Global warming” is now a household name. It was first used by a climate scientist associated with NASA in 1988. The Earth has observed a rapid fall in the ice area of the Arctic Sea as its temperature increased over several decades. Such a reduction in the Arctic sea ice has reportedly induced the acceleration of warming in the Arctic that is suggested to contribute to the enhanced frequency of extreme weather conditions, especially in the mid-latitude regions.
To predict the timing of the depletion of the Arctic sea ice, the research team analyzed data from 41 years, from 1979 to 2019. By comparing the results of several model simulations with three satellite observational datasets, it could be confirmed that the leading cause of this decline is “human-made greenhouse gas emissions”.
The emissions from the combustion of human fossil fuel and deforestation are the drivers of Arctic sea ice declination over these years, while the influence of solar and volcanic activities and aerosols has been minimal. A month-on-month analysis showed that enhanced greenhouse gas emissions were lowering Arctic sea ice all over the year, regardless of the timing or the season, even though September exhibited the least extent of reduction in sea ice.
It was also upheld that climate models deployed in earlier IPCC predictions typically underestimated this declining trend of sea ice, which was later taken into consideration to adjust simulation values for newer and future predictions. Results reflected increased decline rates across scenarios, confirming that Arctic sea ice could disappear entirely by the 2050s even with a steep fall in greenhouse gas emissions. Such a finding highlights that the vanishing of Arctic sea ice is possible even with carbon neutrality.
The increased decline of Arctic sea ice, even faster than what was earlier anticipated, is likely to have massive effects on the Arctic area, ecosystems, and human societies worldwide. Such a rapid reduction of sea ice is expected to result in more frequent extreme weather events like severe heat waves, cold waves, and hefty rainfalls globally, with the thawing of Siberian permafrost in the Arctic likely intensifying global warming even further. We may witness more terrifying scenarios, which we could only see in disaster movies, unfold before our eyes.
Professor Seung-Ki Min, who spearheaded the study, explained that they had observed an even faster Arctic sea ice depletion timing than the earlier IPCC predictions after they scaled model simulations from observational data.
He added that now we must be vigilant regarding the potential disappearance of ice in the Arctic Sea region, irrespective of the policies on carbon neutrality. He expressed the critical importance of evaluating climate change impacts that stem from the disappearance of Arctic sea ice and building up adaptation measures besides policies on carbon emission reduction.
References: The Hindu, Science Daily
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