Arctic sea ice could completely VANISH by 2035 because intense spring sunshine creates ‘melt ponds’ on the surface which absorb heat
- Researchers used a computer to study Arctic sea ice melt 127,000 years ago
- Found the main culprit was spring sun which created pools of water on surface
- These soak up more heat from the sun and themselves contribute to melting
- Satellite images show that a similar trend for ‘melt ponds’ is happening currently
- Melting may become so severe that no Arctic sea ice will exist by 2035
Arctic sea ice could be non-existent by 2035, a damning study warns.
Academics utilised a climate modelling tool created by the Met Office to find out how the Arctic responded during a period of warming 127,000 years ago.
These historical results were then use to create predictions of the future and reveal it is likely there will be no sea ice in the Arctic in 15 years’ time.
The culprit is strong springtime sunshine which creates pools of water known as ‘melt ponds’ that soak up heat from the sun and then contribute to warming.
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Arctic sea ice is rapidly in decline due to global warming and a study predicts it will be completely gone by 2035. Pictured, some melt ponds created on Arctic sea ice
Satellite records show that Arctic sea ice is shrinking by about 13 per cent every decade, with around half of all Arctic sea ice disappearing since the 1980s (pictured)
Arctic sea ice plays an essential role in the world’s ecosystems and its melting will not only contribute to surging sea levels but render many species homeless.
Polar bears, for example, are utterly reliant on Arctic sea ice to live as they use the ice to stalk and hunt prey.
A recent study found most polar bear populations are at risk of dying out by 2100 because of a loss of sea ice.
This timeline is likely to be accelerated should the new prediction of 2035 prove accurate.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey worked with the Met Office on the latest study.
The culprit for the demise of sea ice is believed to be strong springtime sunshine which creates pools of water known as ‘melt ponds’ (pictured) that soak up heat from the sun and then contribute to warming
They found that during the warm interglacial period around 127,000 years ago, intense springtime sunshine created pools of water as ice melted.
These meltwater pools cause more ice to melt as they do not reflect as much sunlight as intact ice.
Instead, more of the sun’s rays and energy are absorbed by the water, warming more ice, and contributing to a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification.
This was deemed to be a major factor in the sea ice melt more than 100,000 years ago, and a similar preponderance of meltwater pools has been spotted today in satellite imagery.
How ‘Arctic amplification’ causes severe polar warming
Scientists have long expected that shrinking Arctic sea ice cover will lead to strong warming of the Arctic air.
Sea ice helps to keep the Arctic atmosphere cold as its whiteness reflects much of the sun’s rays.
It also physically insulates the land beneath it.
With less sea ice more dark open water is exposed, which readily absorbs the Sun’s energy in summer, heating the ocean and leading to even more melt.
With less sea ice there is also less insulation, so that heat from the ocean escapes to warm the atmosphere in the autumn and winter.
This leads to a runaway train effect which results in soaring temperatures well above the global average.
September is the month where sea ice is always at its lowest level, following months of summer temperatures.
Satellite records show that it is shrinking by about 13 per cent every decade, with around half of all Arctic sea ice disappearing since the 1980s.
While almost all experts agree that Arctic sea ice will be gone by 2050, previous predictions have proved wildly inaccurate.
Some estimates incorrectly claimed that Arctic sea ice would already have vanished.
Joint lead author Dr Maria Vittoria Guarino, Earth System Modeller at British Antarctic Survey (BAS), says: ‘High temperatures in the Arctic have puzzled scientists for decades.
‘Unravelling this mystery was technically and scientifically challenging.
‘For the first time, we can begin to see how the Arctic became sea ice-free during the last interglacial.
‘The advances made in climate modelling means 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.’
Dr Louise Sime, the group head of the Palaeoclimate group and joint lead author at BAS, says: ‘We know the Arctic is undergoing significant changes as our planet warms.
‘By understanding what happened during Earth’s last warm period we are in a better position to understand what will happen in the future.
‘The prospect of loss of sea-ice by 2035 should really be focussing all our minds on achieving a low-carbon world as soon as humanly feasible.’
The research has been published in the journal Nature Climate Change.