The Arctic has warmed by 3.1 degrees in less than a century, compared to 1 degree globally. Its melting is faster than we thought. Illustrative image.

CLIMATE – Due to global warming and human activities, the Arctic is melting so quickly that its pack ice could partly disappear in the summer by 2050, according to an alarming report from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), published this Thursday, May 20.

Indeed, the Arctic is warming faster than previously believed, say the scientists behind this report unveiled at the summit of the Arctic Council – which brings together leaders in Reykjavik this week. riparian countries.

“The average annual increase in the surface of the Arctic (land and ocean) between 1971 and 2019 was three times higher than in the world during the same period. This is more than indicated in previous AMAP evaluations ”, specify the authors.

Since 1971, the North Pole has warmed by 3.1 degrees, compared to 1 degree globally. The previous update, published in 2019, indicated that the warming in the Arctic reached “more than double the global average”.

Result? “Before 2050 an Arctic for the first time almost without ice in September”, the month when it is generally at its lowest, conclude the authors of this study. Every fraction of a degree counts: “The probability of an arctic summer without ice is ten times greater with the scenario of a global warming of 2 ° C than with a scenario of 1.5 ° C”, underline the authors.

The ice floe, a broken mirror

Such a difference is explained by the feedback loops implemented by global warming. Arctic sea ice acts like a mirror (albedo effect), reflecting the sun’s rays. As it melts, it gives way to water, a darker material, which absorbs heat and therefore locally accentuates heating.

According to the researchers, a tipping point occurred in 2004 with a still largely unexplained jump in the thermometer above the Arctic Circle. After that, the warming continued there at a rate 30% higher than before. “The Arctic is truly a hotspot for global warming,” says Jason Box, a glaciologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.

The pack ice in the Arctic could completely melt in the summer, before 2050, according to a new report from AMAP. Illustrative image.

Summer sea ice in the Arctic shrank in 2020 to the second smallest area on record, after the all-time high in 2012, according to satellite observations announced Monday by the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the United States.

The warming of these regions has immediate consequences on ecosystems: modification of the habitat, food habits and interactions of the fauna – including the iconic polar bear -, migration of certain species …

Immediate human consequences

Dramatic consequences also for the 4 million people who live in these latitudes, particularly the indigenous populations. “Hunters in northwest Greenland say that the period during which it is possible to travel with dog sleds has fallen from five to three months,” said Sarah Trainor, director of the Center for Assessment and Policy of the climate of Alaska.

Of course, the retreat of the sea ice also opens up economic opportunities, to the chagrin of environmental defenders: new fishing areas, new commercial maritime routes, easier access to potential oil, gas and mineral resources … “However,” insists Sarah Trainor, “the potential for expansion of these industries is constrained by efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions and achieve the goals set under the Paris Agreement”.

According to the projections cited by the report, the average temperatures of the Arctic should by the end of the century rise between 3.3 ° C and 10 ° C above their average over the period 1985-2014, the exact figure depending on the volume of future greenhouse gas emissions.

See also on Then24:This iceberg detached from Antarctica is the largest in the world

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