Science

Arctic may become ice-free for a part of the year by 2058, say Scientists

PTI Washington | Updated on July 17, 2013

Picture shows Sea Ice Minimum in 1979. Sea ice decline is likely to affect future temperatures in the region.   -  NASA

Sea Ice Minimum in 2005. Arctic sea ice typically reaches its minimum in September, at the end of the summer melt season, and then recover over the winter.   -  NASA

Arctic may become ice-free for several months of the year, starting sometime during the years 2054 to 2058, a combined team of researchers from the US and China has predicted.

Using a climate simulation tool, scientists have projected that the Arctic will become ice-free after the next 40 years.

Ice-free in this context refers to a time period during any given year — generally arriving in September after withstanding the heat of summer, researchers said.

Not long after scientists began to recognise that the planet has been heating up, many began to realise that a warmer planet would mean warmer temperatures in the Arctic — enough warming and the Arctic would eventually become ice-free during part of the year, website ‘Phys.org’ reported.

Researchers used a climate model called Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5).

One of the factors that the newest version of CMIP5 takes into consideration is ice thickness — the thinner the ice the faster it will melt — recent research suggests ice in the Arctic is growing thinner, researchers said.

It also uses various factors in attempting to simulate ice extent — ice covering less area to start with — means less will be left at the end of summer.

CIMP5 also allowed the researchers to make comparisons between historical projections and what actually transpired in the real world. As one example, the team gave the simulation data for the time period 1979 through 2011.

By running simulations from various models and comparing them, the team was able to come up with a scenario that best represented what actually occurred. They were able to use the same constraints to project most accurately what might occur in the future.

To help improve accuracy, the team also input data into the model that took into account the fact that more sea ice tends to mean ice will be around longer and vice-versa and applied it using data from the years 2007 to 2012.

The overall result of their simulations gave rise to the same general prediction—that the Arctic will be ice-free for several months of every year, starting sometime during the years 2054 to 2058.

The study was published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Published on July 17, 2013

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