The Arctic Ocean could be almost entirely free of ice by 2040, more than 90 scientists have warned.
The latest assessment conducted by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, which has contributions from more than 90 scientists, found that projections for the melting of the Arctic Sea have been “underestimated”, adding that the region had been warming twice as fast as the rest of the world for the past 50 years.
Snow cover in the Arctic regions has significantly decreased, the report found, noting that “in recent years, June snow area in the North American and Eurasian Arctic has typically been about 50 per cent below values observed before 2000”.
The Snow, Water, Ice, Permafrost report proceeds to warn: “The Arctic Ocean could be largely free of sea ice in summer as early as the late 2030s, only two decades from now.
“The recent recognition of additional melt processes affecting Arctic and Antarctic glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets suggests that low-end projections of global sea-level rise made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are underestimated.”
It also cautions that ecosystems in the Arctic will continue to be stressed, threatening several species endemic to the region – such as polar bears, seals, walruses and ice-associated algae.
The point of no return for the Arctic has passed, the report states, but it adds that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could mitigate some of the predicted impacts of climate change on the Arctic and the rest of the world.
The new findings comes after the National Snow and Ice Centre reported in March 2017 that Arctic sea ice was the lowest it has ever been for the month of March since satellites began recording sea ice 38 years ago.
NASA meanwhile noted that sea ice loss in the Arctic was on average 8,300 square miles per year between 1976 and 1996, compared with 19,500 square miles per year between 1996 and 2013 – showing it had more than doubled in that period.
This rapid loss of ice in the Arctic contributes not only to rising sea levels, but it also reduces the properties of sea ice that reflect the sun’s radiation back into space rather than absorb it like the ocean does, contributing even further to global warming.
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