Too late now to save Arctic summer ice, climate scientists find


Ice-free summers inevitable even with sharp emissions cuts and likely to result in more extreme heatwaves and floods

It is now too late to save summer Arctic sea ice, research has shown, and scientists say preparations need to be made for the increased extreme weather across the northern hemisphere that is likely to occur as a result.

Analysis shows that even if greenhouse gas emissions are sharply reduced, the Arctic will be ice-free in September in coming decades. The study also shows that if emissions decline slowly or continue to rise, the first ice-free summer could be in the 2030s, a decade earlier than previous projections.

The research shows that 90% of the melting is the result of human-caused global heating, with natural factors accounting for the rest.

Since satellite records began in 1979, summer Arctic ice has shrunk by 13% a decade, in one of the clearest signs of the climate crisis. Arctic sea ice reaches its annual minimum at the end of summer, in September, and in 2021 it was at its second lowest extent on record.

“Unfortunately it has become too late to save Arctic summer sea ice,” said Prof Dirk Notz, of the University of Hamburg, Germany, who was part of the study team. “As scientists, we’ve been warning about the loss of Arctic summer sea ice for decades. This is now the first major component of the Earth system that we are going to lose because of global warming. People didn’t listen to our warnings.