Earth's Arctic ice is disappearing. In fact, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center told CNN last week that, within three decades, the top of the world would be practically ice free during the summer.
This week scientists are saying, not so fast. You might want to plan for that ice-free Arctic Ocean summer sail about 50 or 60 years from now.
That's because new computer models run by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, show the ice cap could just as easily expand as contract in periods of up to 10 years at a time.
“One of the results that surprised us all was the number of computer simulations that indicated a temporary halt to the loss of the ice,” NCAR scientist Jennifer Kay, the lead author of a new study on the Arctic ice, said in a news release.
Climate variables such as shifting wind patterns could temporarily reverse ice loss, Kay said.
“The computer simulations suggest that we could see a 10-year period of stable ice or even an increase in the extent of the ice. Even though the observed ice loss has accelerated over the last decade, the fate of sea ice over the next decade depends not only on human activity but also on climate variability that cannot be predicted,” Kay said.
But she said the overall trend is clear.
“When you start looking at longer-term trends, 50 or 60 years, there’s no escaping the loss of ice in the summer,” Kay said.
The latest research appears in this week's Geophysical Research Letters.