Maslowski and Team Offer New Estimate on Summer Arctic Sea Ice Disappearance
11.04.2011 - Water & Oceans, Ice & Snow, Arctic
Wiesław Maslowski and his team from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, USA presented a new and improved computer model predicting Arctic sea ice behaviour over the coming years at the 2011 European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna, Austria. The model predicts that increasing summer sea ice melt could lead to an ice-free Arctic during at least part of the boreal (northern hemisphere) summer by 2016, with a margin of error of plus or minus three years.
Dr Maslowski’s previous model had predicted the Arctic to be seasonally ice-free in the summer by 2013 – an estimate that many experts criticized. Factoring in criticisms he received about the original model, Maslowski and his team came up with a new computer model which is supposed to reproduce real-world couplings (interactions) between the Arctic Ocean, the atmosphere, sea ice and rivers that transport freshwater from land to the ocean. The new model is “very similar to the global climate models” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) uses in its assessments.
The new model also incorporates new data on the thickness of sea ice – which satellites (such as Cryosat-2) are now able to measure more accurately. This new data was one of the reasons Maslowski and his team moved their estimate for summer sea ice disappearance back a few years.
However other experts still remain skeptical about such an early date for the seasonal disappearance of Arctic sea ice. Dr Walt Weiner from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that other predictions, which put seasonal Arctic sea ice disappearance closer to 2040 or 2050, to be more likely.
Maslowski says he is not trying to be alarmist; he’s merely letting policymakers know that there is a possibility that there may be no sea ice in the Arctic in the summer by the end of the decade.