Scientists from the University at Albany predict global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions might lead to an ice-free Arctic by 2054.
Global warming concerns have been well documented, ranging from its effect on public health to its impact on wildlife. Recently, the significant loss of ice sheets around the globe due to global warming has been brought into focus and is the subject of many current studies.
A new study conducted by researchers from the University at Albany predicts that the Arctic could possibly reach an ice-free state by 2054. An area is considered to be ice-free when ice coverage is less than 1 million square kilometers, or about 386,000 square miles. September is considered to be summer time in the Arctic and this is when ice coverage is the least.
According to a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report, 2012 was among the top 10 hottest years recorded since 1800 and global ice coverage hit an all-time low of approximately 1.3 million square kilometers.
Ice coverage has been declining drastically over the last several decades, a decrease of about 40 percent since the late 1970s. In just the last few years, from 2007 to 2012, the Arctic has seen the lowest September ice cover in history, the new study stated.
"An ice-free Arctic would have a significant impact on the ocean's ecosystems, biogeochemical feedback, and extreme weather and climate in the mid- and high-latitudes," UAlbany Professor Jiping Liu of the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (DAES), said in a statement. "It will also affect Arctic maritime and commercial activities, including shipping, transport, and energy exploration."
Speaking to NBC News, Liu pointed out that by 2054, ice in the Arctic could theoretically be only found in small pockets, and would drastically alter shipping routes as boats would no longer have to go around large masses of ice. Mark Serreze, another Artic sea ice expert speaking to NBC News, said Liu's study was too conservative. Serreze predicts an ice-free Arctic by the 2030's and cites several unknown variables, such as heat transfer from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arctic, which could alter estimates.
Liu's research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.