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Arctic could face seasonally ice-free conditions: Study

Last Updated: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - 14:42

Washington: US Geological Survey (USGS) has
warned that the Arctic could face seasonally ice-free
conditions and much warmer temperatures in the future which
may lead to intensified storms and increased winter

The USGS scientists have found evidence that the Arctic
Ocean and Nordic Seas were too warm to support summer sea ice
during the mid-Pliocene period, over three million years ago,
when temperatures were similar to those projected for the end
of this century.

They said the warm period is also used as an analog to
understand future conditions.

"In looking back 3 million years, we see a very different
pattern of heat distribution than today with much warmer
waters in the high latitudes," said USGS scientist Marci

Robinson said, "The lack of summer sea ice during the
mid-Pliocene suggests that the record-setting melting of
Arctic sea ice over the past few years could be an early
warning of more significant changes to come".

Loss of sea ice could have varied and extensive
consequences, such as contributions to continued Arctic
warming, accelerated coastal erosion due to increased wave
activity, impacts to large predators like polar bears and
seals that depend on sea ice cover, the USGS website said.

The US body found that summer sea-surface temperatures in
the Arctic were between 10 to 18 degrees Celsius during the
mid-Pliocene, while current temperatures are around or below 0
degree C.

Examining past climate conditions allows for a true
understanding of how earth`s climate system really functions.

USGS research on the mid-Pliocene is the most
comprehensive global reconstruction for any warm period. This
will help refine climate models, which currently underestimate
the rate of sea ice loss in the Arctic.

Global average surface temperatures during the
mid-Pliocene were about 3 degrees C greater than today and
within the range projected for the 21st century by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Scientists studied conditions during the mid-Pliocene by
analysing fossils dated back to this time period.

It could also intensify mid-latitude storm tracks and
increase winter precipitation in western and southern Europe,
and less rainfall in the American west.


First Published: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - 14:42
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