Arctic May Lose All Its Ice By September If Global Warming Increases

The effects of global warming will continue to change the Earth. A new study warns that the Arctic may lose all of its ice every September if the average global temperatures increase by 2 degrees.

The Arctic Ocean loses more ice cover every September because of the polar summer. This is also the month when the region transitions from summer to winter. 

"Ice recedes from June to September and then in September it begins to grow again in a seasonal cycle,” Won Chang, study co-author and an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, said in a statement. “And we're saying we could have no ice in September."

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, shows that losing all ice in September would make it longer for ice to return for the polar winter in the Arctic. Such delay could negatively affect wildlife such as seals and polar bears, which rely on sea ice to hunt and feed offspring. 

But there is a way to prevent such problems from happening, the researchers said. Following the 2009 Paris Agreement and working on international efforts to limit global temperatures to 2 degrees could help maintain the Arctic’s ice. 

"Most likely, September Arctic sea ice will effectively disappear between approximately 2 and 2.5 degrees of global warming," the researchers said. "Yet limiting the warming to 2 degrees (as proposed under the Paris agreement) may not be sufficient to prevent an ice-free Arctic Ocean."

For the study, the team used a new statistical method to create climate model projections for the 21st century. The models suggested that there is a 6 percent chance that the ice in the Arctic Ocean will disappear if temperatures reach 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. 

The risk climbs to 28 percent when the world becomes warmer at 2 degrees. 

Chang said he expects climate change skeptics to question their findings. But he noted scientists “are very honest,” particularly those studying the climate, and that they prioritize transparency. 

The researchers hope to use the same statistical method they used for the Arctic study to predict issues in other areas such as stock markets, plane accidents and medical research, according to Roman Olson, lead study author from the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea. 

Polar Bears Polar bears sleep on the beach in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in early September waiting for ice to form on the Arctic Ocean. Michael Miller