In a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications: Earth & Environment, an international team of scientists has warned that Arctic sea ice may soon disappear completely during the summer months – echoing a similar situation that occurred 10,000 years ago.
In a time of rising temperatures due to global warming, the so-called “Last Ice Area” located north of Greenland and Canada remains the last sanctuary of all-year ice in the Arctic. By collecting and analyzing sediment samples from the seabed in the Lincoln Sea – part of the “Last Ice Area” – the researchers found that the ice in this region melted away completely during summer months in the Early Holocene, when global temperatures were at a level we are rapidly approaching today.
“Climate models have suggested that summer sea ice in this region will melt in the coming decades, but it’s uncertain if it will happen in 20, 30, 40 years, or more. This project has demonstrated that we’re very close to this scenario, and that temperatures only have to increase a little before the ice will melt,” said study senior author Christof Pearce, an assistant professor of Geoscience at Aarhus University in Denmark.
The scientists warned that, when the last traces of sea ice will melt during the summer months, there could be major consequences for the climate, since the sea will absorb over ten times as much solar energy and thus exacerbate global warming.
In addition, sea ice loss could have marked negative effects on a variety of ecosystems. “The sea ice is a base for many ecosystems. The algae we examined are food for fish, fish are food for birds, etc. How will the marine ecosystems be affected globally if the sea ice disappears? We don’t know the answer yet,” explained study lead author Henrieka Detlef, a geoscientist at Aarhus.
However, according to the experts, the data shows that this worrisome trend can be reversible if we significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set ambitious political and environmental goals.
“The study is a wake-up call, because we know that it will happen. This news is not making the situation more depressing, just more urgent. We have to act now so we can change it,” Pearce concluded.
By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer
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