Even in a low-carbon emissions scenario, the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer a decade sooner than previously thought. This is the conclusion of a study in which scientists used satellite data to examine the decline in sea ice cover in the region around the North Pole over 40 years.

“The results show that, regardless of emission scenarios, the first sea-ice-free September will already occur in the 2030s to 2050s,” write the authors, led by South Korean researcher Min Seung Ki from Pohang University of Science and Technology, in the journal “Nature Communications”. .

For their forecast, the researchers evaluated measurement data for each calendar month between 1979 and 2019 and first compared them with simulated changes. The extent of the Arctic sea ice reaches its summer minimum in mid-September. “The Arctic sea ice area has been shrinking rapidly in recent decades, with a sharper decrease since 2000,” said the team, which included climate researcher Dirk Notz from the University of Hamburg.

The results of the study go beyond the most recent assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As a result, the Arctic would not be practically ice-free in September until around the middle of the century on average – albeit under scenarios with medium and high greenhouse gas emissions.

The researchers working with Min, on the other hand, conclude from their observation-based forecast “that we could experience an unprecedented ice-free Arctic climate in the next decade or two, regardless of the emission scenario”. This would affect human societies and ecosystems inside and outside the Arctic. It is now important to prepare for a seasonally ice-free Arctic in the near future and to plan accordingly.