Arctic Ice Melting Faster Than Computers Thought

sea level rise by 2100
Wikimedia Commons

When the IPCC releases its newest climate change report today, you must excuse them if their 18 computer models for rapidly melting Arctic sea ice are a wee bit out of date. A new study has shown that even the most complex, sophisticated models are not keeping up with reality, and that the ice is melting even faster than the IPCC’s dire reports have predicted.

The IPCC previously reported that the Arctic lost sea ice at a rate of 2.5 percent per decade between 1953 and 2006. But this new study, published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal, found the actual rate is more like 7.8 percent per decade. That means that the Arctic may be seasonally free of sea ice decades earlier than previously projected--perhaps as early as 2020. 

The new study’s authors said that the inability for computers to accurately reflect reality is most likely due to a few factors, among them changing circulation of oceans, the thinness of present-day sea ice and increasingly culpable greenhouse gases.

Less sea ice, of course, means less sunlight reflecting back into the atmosphere and more being soaked up by oceans. That makes the water hotter, which makes ice melt faster, which makes less sunlight reflect … you get the idea. Poor polar bears better practice their crawl stroke.

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