Will the Arctic Be Ice-Free Within the Next Two Decades?

David Appell, Yale Climate Connections, is asking the question - Will the Arctic Be Ice-Free Within the Next Two Decades?

When white sea ice melts, the ocean loses its reflective surface and the darker water absorbs more heat from the sun.

Kristina Pistone of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center says, "melting Arctic sea ice is not only a symptom of global warming, it’s also an important contributor because of the albedo effect.”

So - when Arctic sea ice melts, the underlying ocean water absorbs more of the sun’s heat and warms up.

Than, that, melts more sea ice, producing the dreaded “positive feedback” effect that’s only “positive” in that it generates more heat.

Since 1979, over 600,000 square miles of winter sea ice have disappeared—an area larger than twice the size of Texas.

Pistone said that rate of loss could lead to ice-free summers in the Arctic within the next two decades.

This will be disastrous for local ecosystems, accelerate global warming and affect weather patterns worldwide.


alanroth's picture
alanroth 6 years 48 weeks ago

If you think two decades, you are ignoring history. We'll be lucky if it will take as long as a decade. History (from ice cores) tells us that abrupt climate change has occurred in the Arctic 23 times during the past 100,000 years. Each time the temperature rose 14 to 18 degrees F. Some of the times it took 10-20 years but a majority of the times it took only 3 years. You can see this in Dr. Richard Alley's book The Two-Mile Time Machine. He was part of the drilling team that twice drilled down 2 miles into the Greenland glaciers and retrieved the history record.

What you are not getting is that it is not just the loss of albedo that is at work. There are 1 trillion tons of carbon in the top 3 meters of the continuous permafrost (Ted Shuur) and at least half of that is predicted to thaw this century. Most of it is ice laden so as the carbon thaws, methanogens will devour the carbon quickly and convert it to methane which is more that 100 times stronger than CO2 in its greenhouse gas effect. And it will be radiating right back down on the permafrost to further the thawing before it moseys along to other regions.

Add to that the thermal energy that is building in the Arctic Ocean. That thermal energy rises up from the ocean in warm weather and moves over the permafrost up to 900 miles inland. That thermal energy and the thermal energy radiating from the methane in the atmosphere will together cascade, causing a phase change (the IPCC uses that term), AKA abrupt climate change.

That's not even considering the strong potential of the escape of methane from methane clathrates that will be upset by the ocean's thermal buildup.

We are already experiencing abrupt climate change. In some parts of the Arctic, the temperature is already up 8 degrees F. This is already an ENORMOUS change in only a few years. It's likely that the Arctic sea ice will be gone in just a few years.

Tom, I'm very studied on this and have already done speaking engagements before large audiences of risk managers and actuaries. I'd be glad to talk with you about it.


Robertcd's picture
Robertcd 6 years 48 weeks ago

I have been looking into this for ages and what isn't mentioned are all the other feedback loops and enviromental issues that are going along with Global Warming (actually called anthropogenic forced global heating; which means man made forced heating which isn't natural) and Climate Change which is the result of the forced heating. We have the acidfication of the oceans, the total distrcution of the Great Barrier Reef. We have the 6th great extenction going on which is manily due to human activity. We have major deforestaion either on purpose or through massive forest fires. And the scariest of all issues that no one wants to talk about. Along with the great extinction going on, half of all the phatoplankton have died out do to both forced global heating and acidification. Once those are all gone the whole of the Oceans will be wiped of nearly all sea life destroying the food chain. Since both the major tropical forests are being destroyed along with the phatoplankton, which both pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and replenish it with oxgen we could be running out of that in the near future. But maybe this is just too much bad info overload?

j.jonik 6 years 48 weeks ago

IF the US so-called "regulatory" agencies (and corporatized media) were, even belatedly, exposed for PRETENDING to fight "Big Tobacco" but actually defending and protecting that industry by scapegoating nature's unpatented tobacco plant AND the unwitting, unprotected, secretly-poisoned, defrauded, often killed, and uncompensated smokers for all the health problems, THEN, maybe there'd be a Critical Mass of understanding, outrage and action to outlaw ANY Public Official from accepting even a dime of PRIVATE money.

The cigarette industry is part and parcel of Big Pesticides (big oil and pharms galore... tobacco being the 6th most pesticide intensive crop), Big Chlorine (dioxins in typical cig smoke from still "legal" pesticides and chlor-bleached paper), Pharms again via all sorts of untested often toxic unlabeled cig additives, etc etc etc AND the Big Health Insurers (!) which invest BILLIONS (w/ a "B") in not only cigarette manufacturing but also pesticides, pharms, chlorine and the rest. (Search up "PNHP Insurance Tobacco " for info)

BECAUSE the corporatocracy already did the work of demonizing smoking products, we don't have to do that work.

Job now is SIMPLY to expose WHY those so-called "tobacco" products are so deadly, that so many "smoking-related" (i.e. victim-caused) diseases cannot be caused by smoke from any plant, and to mention that a given cigarette may not contain a shred of tobacco....but instead, fake tobacco made in US Patented ways, from all sorts of industrial waste...none of it likely organic. A vital, integral point being...to call the industry by its preferred "tobacco" name is to SERVE that industry and to perpetuate its biggest deceit.

If we let them get away with this "tobacco" scam, as they did for decades with the also "evil" cannabis-hemp-pot scam, and as they did by blaming miners' smoking for deadly effects of coal dust...we, by silence, let them get away with evasion of unimaginable criminal and liability violations...and with the Very Similar, Virtually-Identical blaming of Nature for Climate Change/Warming. They did it before, with very bad results for us, and they're doing it again with global warming...to get Big Oil, fossil fuels, et ilk off the hook....and to prevent benign natural competition from interfering with profits.

We, even leftist enviros and health activists and the like, by inexplicable inaction on this, let them continue the same health and environmental abuses.

turbineguy's picture
turbineguy 6 years 48 weeks ago

Hi Thom,

You have understated how dire the melting arctic ice situation really is. Consider a glass of water with ice cubes in it. As you heat the water in the glass, the ice will begin to melt mitigating the rise in temperature of the water. When the ice is gone and you continue to heat the water, the rate of increase of the water temperature will increase. When the arctic ice sheet is done, the rate of increase of ocean temperature will increase dramatically. A point of no return ?? A good source on stuff like this is a site called Arctic News.

Brooks Mitchell

KeyStonerMikkiForUSPrez45's picture
KeyStonerMikkiF... 6 years 48 weeks ago

I feel the Science is something the woken ex deniers start paying attention to. For the sleeping dolts content with capitalist-gods oil profiteering the info that could break their stride might be best invested over at ZIka . Thats my suggestion. Zika didn't just appear out of nowhere. There is the remote possibility it could be engineered as a bio weapon but for educational purposes Zika is rampant because what controls it is no longer as effective. Apparently something else lives in mosquitos that keeps transmission lower or maybe mosquitos started feeding on new predators in a biome. A mosquito transmission rate increase translates as a change in host of Zika and likewise a decrease of hosts that carry the offsetting proteins or microorganisms. Immediately culprit is deforestation.

How would I conclude that? Well deforestation kills off some animals that need to exist in jungles and forests. No trees= no squirrels. no monkeys, not much of anything jungle-like. That can't possiby coincide with a christian-creationist dogma that man may take away life habitats of other creatures. Those predators that survive the industrialization from one changed biome move into other biomes. Theres your mechanism. Two types of mosquito blood hosts that cause Zikas transmission by their imbalance of being bitten or lack of one and abundance of the other.

Howard Laverne Stewart's picture
Howard Laverne ... 6 years 48 weeks ago

We should quit talking about it and do something

darcstarr 6 years 47 weeks ago

Concerning the accelerated ice melting. That old joke about buying future ocean

front property in Arizona comes to mind sadly. All those warnings from all those

science institutes and they STILL won't listen. Or more likely those various corp-

orations refuse to just acknowledge it period.

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