Paris : Arctic ' could be ice-free ' a decade earlier than thought. The Arctic Ocean's ice cap will disappear in summer as soon as the 2030s and a decade earlier than thought, no matter how aggressively humanity draws down the carbon pollution that drives global warming, scientists said Tuesday.

Even capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris climate treaty will not prevent the north pole's vast expanse of floating ice from melting away in September, they reported in Nature Communications.

'' It is too late to still protect the Arctic summer sea ice as a landscape and as a habitat,'' co-author Dirk Notz, a professor at the University of Hamburg's Institute of Oceanography, told AFP.

'' This will the first major component of our climate system that we lose because of our emission of greenhouse gases.''

Decreased ice cover has serious impacts over time on weather, people and ecosystems - not just within the region but globally.

''It can accelerate global warming by melting permafrost laden with greenhouse gasses, and sea level rise by melting the Greenland ice sheet,'' lead authors Seung-Ki Min, a researcher at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea told AFP.

Greenland's kilometres thick blanket of ice contains enough frozen water to lift oceans six metres.

By contrast, melting sea ice has no discernable impact on sea levels because the ice is already in ocean water, like ice cubes in a glass.

But it does feed into a vicious circle of warming.

About 90 percent of the Sun's energy that hits white sea ice is reflected back into space.

But when sunlight hits dark, unfrozen ocean water instead, nearly the same amount of that energy is absorbed by the ocean and spread across the globe. [AFP]


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