Last interglacial model shows arctic sea ice may be completely gone by 2035: study

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TORONTO – Arctic sea ice may be completely gone by 2035, according to a new study comparing current conditions to those of the last interglacial period 127,000 years ago. The findings, published in Nature Climate Change, are important in helping predict future patterns of climate change, the researchers said.

“Advances in climate modeling allow us to create a more accurate simulation of Earth’s past climate, which in turn gives us greater confidence in model predictions for the future,” said Joint lead author Maria Vittoria Guarino with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), in a statement.

Guarino said scientists are trying to solve the mystery of the high temperatures in the Arctic during the last interglacial in decades. Using the climate model from the UK Met Office’s Hadley Center, the researchers were able to see how Arctic sea ice – the frozen ocean water that forms and melts in the ocean – completely melted during this time.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the interglacial is the geologic period between an “ice age,” when the large continental ice caps in the northern hemisphere melted. The Earth is currently in an interglacial period called the Holocene.

“We know that 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, ”said Louise Sime, also a lead co-author with BAS.

“The prospect of a loss of sea ice by 2035 should really focus all of our minds on achieving a low carbon world as soon as humanly possible.”

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), sea ice is different from icebergs, glaciers, and ice shelves, which originate from the land, and is important because it helps control the global climate. When sunlight hits sea ice, 80% of it is reflected back into space, says the NSIDC. But when sea ice melts in summer, shallow puddles or “melt ponds” are created. They have an impact on the amount of sunlight absorbed and the amount reflected back into space. When more sunlight is absorbed, it heats the ocean and causes the temperature of the Arctic to rise higher.

Based on the Hadley Center model, described as one of the most advanced physical representations of Earth’s climate, the researchers found that strong sunlight in the spring created many melt ponds in the past. interglacial, which played an important role in melting sea ice. A simulation using the same model examining future trends instead, supported the prediction of a “rapid retreat of future summer sea ice in the Arctic ”, concludes the study.

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