Ice-free Arctic in summer

Is it really possible? Yes. Soon, we will have the ice-free Arctic in the summer. It would happen in the coming years due to rising temperatures. The predictions from the University of Colorado Boulder say so. The findings are in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment.

The first day without ice in the Arctic could occur more than 10 years earlier than previous projections. The trend is constant in all future emissions scenarios. By mid-century, the Arctic is likely to go an entire month without floating ice in September. By the end of the century, the ice-free season could last several months a year. For scientists, an ice-free Arctic does not mean that there will be no ice on the water.

The ice-free Arctic in the summer is a very close scenario.
The ice-free Arctic in the summer is a very close scenario.

Table of Contents

This decade

Researchers say the Arctic is ice-free when the ocean has less than 1 million square kilometers of ice. The threshold represents less than 20% of what the minimum ice cover was in the 1980s. Alexandra Jahn is a professor at the Arctic and Alpine Research Institute at CU Boulder. She analyzed sea ice cover data from computational climate models to assess the future of the Arctic.

“It is important to predict when we might see the first ice-free conditions in the Arctic,” Jahn said in a statement. He projects that the Arctic Ocean could become ice-free for the first time in August between the 2020s and 2030s.

Greenhouse gas emissions are the main contributors to sea ice loss. Decreasing snow and ice cover increases the heat from sunlight absorbed by the ocean.

The loss of ice will affect animal life severely.
The loss of ice will affect animal life severely.


An ice-free Arctic in the summer will impact animals that depend on sea ice to survive, including seals and polar bears. If the ocean warms, non-native fish could move to the Arctic Ocean. The impact of these invasive species on local ecosystems is still unclear.

It is a risk for communities living near the coastal region. Sea ice cushions the impacts of ocean waves on the coast. As sea ice recedes, ocean waves would become larger, causing coastal erosion.

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