However, a new computer model suggests that changes in atmospheric conditions could slow and even halt the melting of ice in the Arctic. Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) even believe that there could be a growing ice cover again, at least for some time.
"As we learn more about climate variability, new and unexpected research results are coming to light," says Sarah Ruth, program director in the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funds NCAR for NSF. "What's needed now are longer-term observations to better understand the effect of climate change on Arctic sea ice." A new computer climate simulation found that, under current climate conditions as well as changing wind patterns, Arctic ice is as likely to expand as it is to contract for periods of up to about a decade.
"The computer simulations suggest that we could see a 10-year period of stable ice or even a slight increase in the extent of the ice," said NCAR scientist Jennifer Kay, the lead researcher. "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."
However, Kay noted that there is no doubt about the overall trend. Over a period of 50 to 60 years, the Arctic will lose its ice during the summer.