Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Less ice, more water in Arctic Ocean by 2050s


By the 2050s, parts of the Arctic Ocean once covered by sea ice much of the year will see at least 60 days a year of open water, according to a new modeling study led by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.

"We hear all the time about how sea ice extent in the Arctic is going down," says 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."

The Arctic Ocean will experience more days of open water by the 2050s.

Photo by Katy Barnhart

So Barnhart and her colleagues, including CIRES Fellow Jennifer Kay and INSTAAR Fellow Irina Overeem, set out to investigate the very local impacts of open water expansion patterns in the Arctic. Their work is published today in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The researchers used climate simulations from the National Center for Atmospheric Research-based Community Earth System Model to see how the number of open water, or sea-ice-free, days change from 1850 to 2100 in our planet's northernmost ocean. They also wanted to understand when open water conditions in specific locations would be completely different from preindustrial conditions.

Because most economic activity in the Arctic is along the coastline, the team focused on four coastal locations that demonstrated the range of sea ice change: 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.

For example, at Drew Point, open water is already shifting from preindustrial conditions. Once present about 50 days a year on average (~1900-2000), open water is now present about 100 days a year. By the 2070s, the modeling study concludes, there could be close to 200 days a year with no sea ice at Drew Point, which is likely to worsen coastal erosion.

"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, now a postdoctoral fellow at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. "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."

For the study, Barnhart, Kay and their colleagues relied on climate projections from 1850 to 2100 and analyzed multiple runs or "realizations" from a single climate model.

According to their analysis, the entire Arctic coastline and most of the Arctic Ocean will experience an additional 60 days of open water each year by the 2050s, and many sites will have more than 100 additional days.

"The Arctic is warming and the sea ice is melting, with impacts on Arctic people and ecosystems," Kay said. "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 study was authored by Katherine R. Barnhart (Department of Geological Sciences and Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, CU-Boulder; Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania); Christopher R. Miller (independent statistician); Irina Overeem (Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, CU-Boulder); Jennifer Kay (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, CU-Boulder).

CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and the University of Colorado Boulder.

Katy Barnhart | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Alpine Research Arctic Arctic Ocean CIRES CU-Boulder INSTAAR coastal erosion conditions sea ice

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere
25.10.2016 | American Geophysical Union

nachricht Enormous dome in central Andes driven by huge magma body beneath it
25.10.2016 | University of California - Santa Cruz

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>