The entire Arctic coastline and most of the Arctic Ocean will experience an additional two months of open water each year by the 2050s, projects a new study. Some sites in the Arctic Ocean — once covered by sea ice — may see more than 100 additional days of open water, the findings showed.
“The Arctic is warming and the sea ice is melting, with impacts on Arctic people and ecosystems,” said Jennifer Kay from University of Colorado Boulder in the US.
“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 have seen in the past,” Kay pointed out.
The researchers used climate simulations 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 analysed multiple runs or “realisations” from a single climate model. 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 pre-industrial conditions.
Once present about 50 days a year on average, open water is now present about 100 days a year. By the 2070s, the modelling study concluded, there could be close to 200 days a year with no sea ice at Drew Point, which is likely to worsen coastal erosion.
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 findings appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change.