Study shows impact of sea ice loss on Arctic warming

Record low sea ice covers the Chukchi Sea near Kotzebue, AK in April 2018. (Photo by Marc Carrel/for The Cordova Times)

An international team of scientists studying global warming says their research suggests that sea ice loss is causing the rapid warming of the Arctic.

“When the sea ice melts away completely, this elevated warming will also disappear and the warming rate in the Arctic will be similar to the rest of the world,” said Aiguo Dai, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the State University of New York, Albany.

Dai is the co-author of a study, along with researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China, who found that the large Arctic amplification only occurs from October to April and only over the area of prominent sea ice loss. This is mainly because seasonal sea ice melting from May to September causes more extensive upper seawater and absorbs more sunlight during the warm season and the heat energy is stored in sea surface Arctic waters, researchers said. Most of this energy is released into the atmosphere through longwave radiation, and latent and sensible heat fluxes to hearing the atmosphere during the cold season when the Arctic Ocean becomes a heat source, leading to the large Arctic amplification or increased size and effect of warming.

Their research results were published in the online journal Natural Communications and also reported on EurekAlert, the online publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The take-home message here is that the melting of Arctic sea ice will not only reduce the habitat for polar bears and open new waterways for ships, but also greatly enhance warming in the region for the coming decades,” Dai said. “This could also impact weather patterns in middle latitudes, causing more frequent intrusions of winter polar vortex into the continental U.S.”