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Arctic Global Warming Forecasts



Ice Free Arctic - Climate Change 

2010-2015.  Computer model forecasts taking into account sea ice thinning and albedo effects project an ice-free summer Arctic Ocean between 2010-2015.  “The Arctic Ocean could be free of ice in the summer as soon as 2010 or 2015 -- something that hasn't happened for more than a million years, according to a leading polar researcher.  Louis Fortier, scientific director of ArcticNet, a Canadian research network, said the sea ice is melting faster than predicted by models created by international teams of scientists, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate ChangeThey had forecast the Arctic Ocean could be free of summer ice as early as 2050.  But Fortier told an international conference on defence and security in Quebec City yesterday that the worst-case scenarios are becoming reality.  ‘The frightening models we didn't even dare to talk about before are now proving to be true,’ Fortier told CanWest News Service, referring to computer models that take into account the thinning of the sea ice and the warming from the albedo effect -- the Earth is absorbing more energy as the sea ice melts.  According to these models, there will be no sea ice left in the summer in the Arctic Ocean somewhere between 2010 and 2015.”  (No author credited, “Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer as early as 2010,” Times Colonist, Victoria, British Columbia, November 16, 2007) 

2013.  Arctic ocean could be mostly ice free by 2013 according to NASA scientists.  “Recent satellite data from the U.S. Space agency NASA indicate that sea ice in the Arctic and Greenland is melting at a faster rate than previously projected.  VOA's Paul Sisco has the story.  Climate scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, outside Washington, say the Arctic Ocean could be mostly ice free in late summer 2013.  

‘The sea ice is decreasing faster than all the models predicted," says Jay Zwally, the ice satellite project scientist at NASA Goddard, ‘We not only have the warming of the atmosphere, we have a warming of the ocean that is affecting this.  It has been surprising to everybody, this decrease in [Arctic sea ice] area. This is a marked departure, and this is suggesting to us that maybe we are getting at this tipping point.’” (No author credited, “NASA Scientists See Hastened Arctic Warming,” Voice of America, Washington, DC, January 9, 2008) 

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We have already reached a tipping point where we will soon see an ice-free Arctic Ocean in the summer. 

There's nothing we can do about that. It could be in 2015.  It could be in 2025.  It almost doesn't matter.  It'll happen in this generation. 

As a result, the whole weather system could change. (1)

Dr. David Carlson
Director, International Polar Year
July 2009

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2015 – 2025.  Global warming prediction range for an ice-free Arctic ocean.  “To get a sense of the big picture, I spoke to David Carlson, [Director of the International Polar Year] an affable man who right now probably knows more than anyone else about the pace of climate change in the Arctic. There was really only one question I wanted to ask:  based on the very latest research, exactly how bad is it?  ‘We have already reached a tipping point where we will soon see an ice-free Arctic Ocean in the summer,’ Carlson confirms. ‘There's nothing we can do about that. It could be in 2015, it could be in 2025, it almost doesn't matter — it'll happen in this generation. As a result, the whole weather system could change. It's hard to predict exactly, but the system could change.’” (Jess Worth, “When the ice melts: what's in store as the world's coldest dwelling place heats up?,” New Internationalist, July 1, 2009)

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The sea ice is decreasing faster than all the models predicted. . . [M]aybe we are getting at this tipping point. (2)

Jay Zwally, EOS ICESat
NASA Ice Satellite Project Scientist
NASA Goddard, Greenbelt, Maryland
January 2008

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2020.  Arctic will be largely open water in summer by 2020“The Arctic Ocean is likely to be largely ice-free every summer within ten years. New data released today by the Catlin Arctic Survey and WWF supports the new consensus view that the Arctic will be mostly open water in summer by 2020.  The Catlin Arctic Survey team, led by Pen Hadow, carried out more than 6,000 measurements and observations between March and May this year on a 450km route across the northern part of the Beaufort Sea.  This region of the Arctic Ocean is normally covered with thick, multi-year ice at that time of year (the Arctic winter), but the survey results instead indicate a thin, first-year ice covering."

"The findings have been analysed by the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge, headed up by leading oceanographer Professor Peter Wadhams, who says: 

'With a larger part of the region now first year ice, it is clearly more vulnerable. The area is now more likely to become open water each summer, bringing forward the potential date when the summer sea ice will be completely gone.' 

'The Catlin Arctic Survey data supports the new consensus view, based on seasonal variation of ice extent and thickness, changes in temperatures, winds and especially ice composition, that the Arctic will be ice-free in summer within about 20 years, and that much of the decrease will be happening within 10 years.'” Arctic Summer ice cover will completely vanish 2030 - 2040.  Largely ice-free by 2020. (“Catlin Survey predicts ice-free Arctic summers,” M2 Presswire, October 15, 2009)  

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The frightening [Arctic global warming scenario] models we didn't even dare to talk about before are now proving to be true. (3) 

Louis Fortier
Scientific director of ArcticNet
November 2007

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2020.  Russia to establish special Arctic border guard forces by 2020 to protect its political and economic interests in the Arctic.  “Russia plans to create by 2020 a group of forces to protect its political and economic interests in the Arctic.  ‘The military component of the Arctic force will include units from the Northern and the Pacific fleets and military districts whose northern borders lie in the Arctic,’ the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Vyatcheslav Popov, [head of the Commission on Maritime Policy in Federation Council] as saying.  Russia's announcement of creating the Arctic force has aroused testy remarks from Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, who on Friday said ‘Canada will not be bullied’ when it comes to safeguard its own Arctic interests.  Several countries including Russia, Canada, the United States and a number of Nordic European nations are seeking to assert jurisdiction in the disputed territory in the Arctic region, which holds many untapped natural resources. The dispute has intensified as shrinking polar ice has allowed the opening of new shipping lanes to those natural resources.” (“New Arctic force to aim at border protection: Russian official,” Xinhua News Agency, March 30, 2009)  See Russian National Security Strategy for 2020.  See map of Russian territorial claims in the Arctic

2020 – 2040.  Time frame when Arctic ice mass may completely melt.  “The ice mass in the Arctic might melt completely sometime between 2020 and 2040, causing Greenland to turn, well, green. ‘If that happens,’ says Larry J. Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, ‘sea levels would eventually rise over 14 feet higher.’ That would flood millions of people across the planet.” (Rick Telander, “Time to warm up to reality,” Chicago Sun-Times, January 4, 2008) 

2025.  Greenland’s coastal lands projected to rise at a rate of 2 inches per year due to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.  “Scientists are astounded as rapid ice meltdown in Greenland is causing the land to rise quickly.  Moving glaciers in Greenland form dense icecaps up to 2 km thick that covers most of the island. These icecaps also press down hard on the land beneath, lowering its elevation.  Scientists from the University of Miami have now found that these icecaps are melting, causing some coastal lands to rise by nearly one inch per year.  If this trend continues, that number could accelerate to as much as two inches per year by 2025, explains Tim Dixon, professor of geophysics at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) and principal investigator of the study.” (No author credited, “Greenland rapidly rising due to ice melting,” The Hindustan Times, London, England, May 19, 2010 citing findings in Yan Jiang, Timothy H. Dixon, Shimon Wdowinski, 'Accelerating uplift in the North Atlantic region as an indicator of ice loss', Nature Geoscience, May 2010; doi: 10.1038/ngeo845)  

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 What's surprising, and a bit worrisome, is that the [Greenland ice sheet] is melting so fast that we can actually see the land uplift in response.  Even more surprising, the rise seems to be accelerating, implying that melting is accelerating. (6)

— Timothy Dixon
Rosenstiel School of Marine
and Atmospheric Science
May 2010

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2030 or sooner.  Projected time frame when Arctic summers may be almost free of sea ice.  “In fact, scientists say global warming's influence is already visible and it could get worse within decades if no action is taken.  The average number of heat-wave deaths in Chicago could more than double by 2050, and killer heat waves in Europe could also increase by that time, experts say. Arctic summers may be almost free of sea ice by 2030 or sooner, they say.”  Ice free Arctic summers.  (“Global Warming A Tough Sell For The Human Psyche,” The Associated Press, New York, December 17, 2009) 

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It's quite conceivable that that tipping point we talk about [for an ice free summer Arctic ocean by 2030] has already been reached. (4)  

— Mark Serreze, Senior scientist
National Snow and Ice Data Center
August 2007

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2040.  Projected year that the Arctic could become nearly devoid of summer ice.  “The recent retreat of Arctic sea ice is likely to accelerate so rapidly that the Arctic Ocean could become nearly devoid of ice during summertime as early as 2040, according to new research published in the December 12 [2006] issue of Geophysical Research Letters.  The study, by a team of scientists [Holland, Bitz and Tremblay] from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the University of Washington, and McGill University, analyzes the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the Arctic.  Scenarios run on supercomputers show that the extent of sea ice each September could be reduced so abruptly that, within about 20 years, it may begin retreating four times faster than at any time in the observed record.” (NCAR News Release, “Abrupt Ice Retreat Could Produce Ice-Free Arctic Summers by 2040, National Center for Atmospheric Research, NCAR, Boulder, Colorado, December 11, 2006 citing findings in Holland, M. M., C. M. Bitz, and B. Tremblay (2006), Future abrupt reductions in the summer Arctic sea ice, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L23503, doi:10.1029/2006GL028024, Geophysical Research Letters, December 12, 2006)

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Arctic Climate Change

Source: “Thinning on top,” video published at “Northern exposure,” The Economist, September 22, 2011

 
NASA:  Arctic Could Be
Entirely Ice Free by Late Summer 2013
 
Arctic Largely Ice-Free by 2020 

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"[Arctic] multi-year ice is shrinking back to a kind of Alamo where it is making its last stand north of Ellesmere Island in Greenland.

. . . New models now predict that the summer ice cover in the Arctic will completely vanish in 20 to 30 years time [2030 - 2040].

That means that there won't be any sea ice there at all. 

But in much less time than that, the ice in summer will be shrinking back to this last bastion (north of Greenland and Ellesmere Island) so, within a decade [2020] we will see a largely ice-free Arctic Ocean in summer."

Prof. Peter Wadhams
Polar Ocean Physics Group
University of Cambridge
Catlin Arctic Ice Survey
October 2009

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2050.  2007 IPCC forecast that Arctic would retain ice year-round until 2050 found to underestimate Arctic sea ice melting rate “Arctic Ocean sea ice is melting faster than even the most advanced climate change models predict, a new study [Arctic Sea Ice Decline: Faster Than Forecast] concludes.  The work, published today [May 1, 2007] in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, used the models to retroactively predict sea-ice decline from 1953 to 2006.  Scientists then compared the results to what has actually been recorded by Earth-based and satellite observations during that time frame. 

The team found that, on average, 18 climate models used in a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underestimated the extent of sea-ice decline by a factor of three.  ‘We're about 30 years ahead of what the models show,’ said Julienne Stroeve, lead author of the study and a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The IPCC report projects that the Arctic Ocean will retain some ice year-round until about 2050, after which time the region will be ice-free during the summers. . .

But the new findings mean that the ocean could lose its summer sea ice much sooner, Stroeve said. . . . Study author Stroeve believes that the models underestimate the effect of ocean currents carrying ever warmer water into the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic and Pacific.  ‘The models don't handle ocean processes quite so well,’ she said. ‘This is playing a larger role than we thought.’  Still, she added, all the models make it clear that human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other atmosphere-warming gases are a major factor in Arctic melting.  ‘It is highly unlikely that this is natural variability,’ she said. ‘I believe this is happening because of changes in our atmosphere’ caused by human activities.” 

(Richard A. Lovett, “Arctic Ice Melting Much Faster Than Predicted, National Geographic News, May 1, 2007 citing findings from Stroeve, J., M. M. Holland, W. Meier, T. Scambos, and M. Serreze (2007), Arctic sea ice decline: Faster than forecast, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L09501, doi:10.1029/2007GL029703, May 1, 2007)  Follow NSIDC on Twitter for the latest Arctic sea ice developments.

2050.  Loss of 75% of Arctic summer sea ice projected for 2050.   “Loss of summer sea ice will bring an increasingly navigable Northwest Passage, and the Northern Sea Route will create new opportunities for cruise shipping. Projections suggest that by 2050, the Northern Sea Route will have 125 days/yr with less than 75% sea-ice cover, which represents favourable conditions for navigation by ice-strengthened cargo ships (Instanes et al., 2005). Increased marine navigation and longer summers will improve conditions for tourism and travel associated with research (Instanes et al., 2005), and this effect is already being reported in the North American Arctic (Eagles, 2004).”  (Chapter 15, IPCC 2007, Anisimov, O.A., D.G. Vaughan, T.V. Callaghan, C. Furgal, H. Marchant, T.D. Prowse, H. Vilhjálmsson and J.E. Walsh, 2007: Polar regions (Arctic and Antarctic). Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 676 citing Instanes, A., O. Anisimov, L. Brigham, D. Goering, B. Ladanyi, J.O. Larsen and L.N. Khrustalev, 2005: Infrastructure: buildings, support systems, and industrial facilities. Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, ACIA, C. Symon, L. Arris and B. Heal, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 907-944)

2070.  Arctic projected to be entirely ice-free by 2070.  “Current computer models suggest that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free during summer by the year 2070 but some scientists now believe that even this dire prediction may be over-optimistic, said Professor Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice specialist at Cambridge University.  ‘When the ice becomes so thin it breaks up mechanically rather than thermodynamically. So these predictions may well be on the over-optimistic side,’ he said.  As the sea ice melts, and more of the sun's energy is absorbed by the exposed ocean, a positive feedback is created leading to the loss of yet more ice, Professor Wadhams said.  

‘If anything we may be underestimating the dangers. The computer models may not take into account collaborative positive feedback,’ he said.  Sea ice keeps a cap on frigid water, keeping it cold and protecting it from heating up. Losing the sea ice of the Arctic is likely to have major repercussions for the climate, he said. "There could be dramatic changes to the climate of the northern region due to the creation of a vast expanse of open water where there was once effectively land," Professor Wadhams said. ‘You're essentially changing land into ocean and the creation of a huge area of open ocean where there was once land will have a very big impact on other climate parameters,’ he said.” (Steve Connor, Science Editor, “Global warming 'past the point of no return',” The Independent, Friday, 16 September 2005) 

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It's always dangerous to make predictions, but we are right on schedule for [the disappearance in 2070 of Arctic sea summer ice] to occur. (5)

 — Mark Serreze, Senior research scientist
National Snow and Ice Data Center
March 2006

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2070.  Arctic sea ice could completely disappear during the summer as early as 2070.  “U.S. scientists said Monday [October 4, 2004] that the extent of Arctic sea ice, the floating mass of ice that covers the Arctic Ocean, is continuing its rapid decline.  Researchers at the [University of Colorado at Boulder's - CU Boulder - National Snow and Ice Data Center] said latest satellite information indicates the September 2004 sea ice extent was 13.4 percent below average, a reduction in area nearly twice the size of Texas.  In 2002, the decline in arctic sea ice during September -- which traditionally marks the end of the summer melt season -- was about 15 percent, a record low.  Sea-ice decline during September has averaged about 8 percent over the past decade, researchers said, and current computer models suggest the sea ice could completely disappear during the summer as early as 2070.” (“Summer Arctic Sea Ice In Decline,” United Press International, Monday, October 4, 2004 citing reported by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, “Arctic Sea Ice Declines,” October 4, 2004.  See also Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis

(1) Dr. David Carlson, Director of the International Polar Year (IPY) quoted in Jess Worth, “When the ice melts: what's in store as the world's coldest dwelling place heats up?,” New Internationalist, July 1, 2009
(2) Jay Zwally, EOS ICESat quoted in “NASA Scientists See Hastened Arctic Warming,” Voice of America, Washington, DC, January 9, 2008
(3) Louis Fortier, Scientific director of ArcticNet, CanWest News Service, “Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer as early as 2010,” Times Colonist, Victoria, British Columbia, November 16, 2007
(4) Mark Serreze, senior scientist at National Snow and Ice Data Center quoted in John Roach, “Arctic Ice at All-Time Low,” National Geographic News, August 20, 2007
(5) Mark Serreze, senior research scientist, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder quoted in Adrianne Appel, “Arctic Ice Isn't Refreezing in the Winter, Satellites Show,” National Geographic News, March 17, 2006
(6) No author credited, “Greenland rapidly rising due to ice melting,” The Hindustan Times, London, England, May 19, 2010 citing findings in Yan Jiang, Timothy H. Dixon, Shimon Wdowinski, 'Accelerating uplift in the North Atlantic region as an indicator of ice loss', Nature Geoscience, May 2010; doi: 10.1038/ngeo845

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