New Climate Model Predicts the Arctic Would be Sea-Ice Free by 2035

Understanding what happened during Earth's last warm period may help scientists to predict the future of the world

An international team of researchers, led by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), has used a cutting-edge climate modeling system, developed by U.K. Met Office's Hadley Centre to project that the Arctic could be free of sea ice by 2035.

On the surface of the Arctic, sea-ice shallow pools of water form as the seasonal temperatures rise, mostly during the spring and early summertime.

These 'melt-ponds' are important for ice's albedo, which is a measure of how much sunlight that hits a surface is reflected without being absorbed. So, larger areas of melt pool mean that more heat is absorbed by the sea ice which then causes more melt and in turn absorbs more heat.

The new climate modeling system helped the researchers estimate that the impact of intense sunlight during springtime that created many melt ponds, which can lead the Arctic to become sea-ice free by 2035.

Arctic sea-ice
Arctic sea-ice Dirk Notz

The Change in The Arctic

As per the study, published in Nature, the prediction is based on gathered data during the last inter-glacial period that occurred 130,000–116,000 years ago. In this period, the climate was warmer than today. The NOAA noted that the current "Holocene" inter-glacial period began 11,700 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene.

One of the lead authors of the new study, Dr. Maria Vittoria Guarino, Earth System Modeller at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) said, "High temperatures in the Arctic have puzzled scientists for decades" and unraveling this climate mystery was "technically and scientifically challenging." But now, for the first time the world can see how the Arctic became sea ice-free during the last inter-glacial, Dr. Guarino added.

She also explained that the advances made in the climate modeling indicate that "we can create a more accurate simulation of the Earth's past climate, which, in turn, gives us greater confidence in model predictions for the future."

Earth Temperature
Earth Temperature Wikimedia commons

As per the team of researchers, the new findings of the Arctic have highlighted the importance of adding the melt pond data into climate models and tackling climate change as soon as possible. Dr. Louise Sime, the head of the Palaeoclimate group and the other lead author at BAS said that the Arctic is undergoing significant changes as the earth is warming up.

The expert explained that "by understanding what happened during Earth's last warm period," it will get easier for the scientists to predict what will happen in the future. She also said, "The prospect of the loss of sea-ice by 2035 means we should really be focusing all our minds on achieving a low-carbon world as soon as humanly feasible."