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Arctic Ocean, Frozen Almost All Year Round, May Thaw For 60 Days Without Sea Ice By 2050

Update Date: Nov 05, 2015 11:03 AM EST
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Now it's the Arctic Ocean's turn to be getting struck by climate change. It was once "frozen" for most of the months in the year, but in the 2050s it looks like it is going to have "open water" for two months.

This worrying prediction was made by a recent modeling study using climate simulations from the National Center for Atmospheric Research-based Community Earth System Model . It has arrived at some conclusion to see how some ice-free days have altered between 1850 and 2100 in the Arctic Ocean, reported the University of Colorado at Boulder.

"We hear all the time about how sea ice extent in the Arctic is going down," said Katy Barnhart, who led the study while at CU-Boulder's Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR). "That's an important measurement if you are trying to understand broad impacts of climate change in the Arctic, but it doesn't tell us about how the changes in the sea ice in the Arctic are going to affect specific places."

As the coastline is the most important and significant economic hotspot here, scientists focussed on four important points: "Drew Point, along Alaska's North Slope; the Laptev Sea, along Siberia's northern coast; Perry Channel in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (part of the Northwest Passage route); and Arctic Ocean regions east of Svalbard, Norway," according to HNGN.

The scientists found that Drew Point waters seemed to have "thawed" for about 50 days on average in the century 1900 to 2000. However, today, "open-water days" have doubled.

With this information, the models said that by the 2070s, this area woud be facing 200 unfrozen days. The worrying sea-ice free days would enhance the erosion around Drew Point.

"We wanted to highlight places that had interesting or different stories with respect to the patterns of Arctic Ocean, atmosphere, and sea ice motion--things like coastal erosion or connections to potential sea routes," said Barnhart. "Since we don't expect the impacts of Arctic sea ice loss to be exactly the same in Alaska as in Greenland, we looked at open water days to provide a more nuanced picture of sea ice change at specific locations."

Hence, by 2050, while the whole belt of the Arctic coastline and much of the Arctic Ocean will undergo doube the number of days without sea ice, there are a number of sites that would indicate a greater change.

"The Arctic is warming and the sea ice is melting, with impacts on Arctic people and ecosystems," said CIRES Fellow Jennifer Kay."By the end of this century, assuming a scenario of continued business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions, the Arctic will be in a new regime with respect to open water, fully outside the realm of what we've seen in the past."

The findings were published in a recent edition of the Journal Nature Climate Change.

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