Climate scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are warning the Arctic may be ice free by the summer by 2040 due to global warming.
Scientists sounded the alarm on a Wednesday press call that comes after the north pole hit record low winter sea ice coverage in February. NOAA’s warning of an ice-free Arctic are consistent with warnings given by other researchers over the past few years.
Scientists warned that Arctic ice will melt faster as temperatures grow hotter, which they warn is harming the region’s ecology — zooplankton are losing fat content which could harm fish in the area that feed on these organisms.
Sounds alarming, but is an ice-free Arctic really something to worry about?
“I doubt the Arctic will be free of all ice in any summer, although the total area may well be greatly reduced in the future if it continues to warm there,” Chip Knappenberger, a climate scientist at the libertarian Cato Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Such a situation should not be overly worrisome, as there is ample evidence that it has occurred in the past and clearly, polar bears, and everything else up there managed to survive,” Knappenberger said.
Research shows that the Arctic has had much less ice in the past than today, but also that the region has gone through periods of being ice free in the summer. And even with ice free summers, polar bears and other species have been able to survive and thrive.
A series of studies over the past few years have found that Arctic sea ice levels were significantly reduced between 6,000 and 8,500 years ago. There’s even points at which the Arctic may have been ice free during summertime.
A 2008 study by the Geological Survey of Norway found that “the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean was greatly reduced some 6000-7000 years ago” and that the “Arctic Ocean may have been periodically ice free.”
”The climate in the northern regions has never been milder since the last Ice Age than it was about 6000-7000 years ago. We still don’t know whether the Arctic Ocean was completely ice free, but there was more open water in the area north of Greenland than there is today,” says geologist Astrid Lyså with the NGU said of the study.
Another study done in 2010 by European scientists found that the “combined sea ice data suggests that the seasonal Arctic sea ice cover was strongly reduced during much of the early Holocene.” The Holocene is a geological epoch that started some 11,700 years ago.
The study added that “there appear to have been periods of ice free summers in the central Arctic Ocean.”
In 2011, another European study found that multi-year sea ice off northern Greenland “reached a minimum ~8500 and 6000 years ago, when the limit of year-round sea ice at the coast of Greenland was located ~1000 kilometers to the north of its present position.”
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