By Daanyal Raja
The Arctic circle has always been in a consistent cycle regarding the millions of tonnes of sea ice in it: during cold months, the ice expands, and during warmer months, the ice retreats due to thawing. Unfortunately, climate change and the abnormally high amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have put this timeless cycle in jeopardy. Over time, the amount of Arctic sea ice has declined, as it spends more and more time thawing and melting than it spends expanding. Despite the rise and fall of ice during the year, the Arctic sea has always been covered in ice. However, a new study suggests that all arctic sea ice will be gone by 2050, even if the world is able to significantly reduce its CO₂ emissions.
The study, led by polar geophysicist Dirk Notz from the University of Hamburg, analyzed dozens of climate models, which all reached the same conclusion: the Arctic will lose all its ice in only a few decades. When asked about the possibilities of changing this seemingly inevitable outcome, Notz said, “If we reduce global emissions rapidly and substantially, and thus keep global warming below 2 °C relative to pre-industrial levels, Arctic sea ice will nevertheless likely disappear occasionally in summer even before 2050.” The models that Notz and his team analyzed came from CMIP6 (the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6) and include the latest variants of climate models and account for different hypothetical situations and trajectories ranging from rapid reduction of CO₂ emissions to an unchanged response. The team realized that the majority of the simulations predicted that the Arctic Ocean would lose all of its sea ice before 2050, no matter the hypotheticals employed.
Even though these results are devastating, they hardly come as a surprise. Several scientists have predicted that the Arctic would lose its sea ice well before models could predict such an outcome. Worse yet, the lack of sea ice will amplify the effects of global warming. With less ice in the Arctic to reflect light away, the Earth will absorb more heat, resulting in the planet warming up more quickly. The only good news that there is regarding this issue is that there is still time to react and reduce CO₂ emissions. Scientific models speculate different solutions to this issue, but to be successful in the fight against climate change, we must be united in facing it.