Arctic Ocean Modelling Inaccurate, Warming Rate Could Be Much Faster: Study
March 14, 2023
According to researchers, the Arctic Ocean will warm far more quickly than predicted by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other organisations
Researchers argue that the rate of warming of the Arctic Ocean will be much faster than that projected by United Nations' (UN's) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and others.
This is because, they say, the climate models used by them to project climate change do not accurately reflect what the Arctic's future will be.
The researchers from University of Gothenburg, Sweden, say that the reason that these models are not accurate is because relatively fewer observations are made in that part of world, owing to the Arctic's sea ice cover and its harsh climate.
This meant that the climate models used for projecting the future of the Arctic have not been calibrated to the same extent there as in other parts of the world.
The researchers, through two recent scientific studies, concluded that the rate of warming of the Arctic Ocean will continue at a much faster rate than that projected by climate models, after comparing the results of the climate models with actual observations.
"These climate models underestimate the consequences of climate change," said Celine Heuze, climatologist at the University of Gothenburg and lead author of one of the studies.
"In reality, the relatively warm waters in the Arctic regions are even warmer, and closer to the sea ice. Consequently, we believe that the Arctic sea ice will melt away faster than projected," explained Heuze.
Warm water flows into the Arctic Ocean via Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard.
However, the volume of water in these ocean currents and its temperature in the climate models are too low, which is one of the reasons why the climate models' projections will not be accurate.
Even the stratification of the Arctic Ocean is incorrect, the researchers said.
They argued that since roughly half of the models project an increase and the other half a decrease in stratification, the consequences of global warming cannot be estimated accurately.
"This is a serious situation.
"If governments and organisations all over the world are going to rely on these climate models, they must be improved. Therefore, research and data acquisition in the Arctic ocean must be prioritised.
"At present, we cannot provide a useful prediction of how quickly the Arctic sea ice is melting," said Heuze.
The sea ice of the Arctic ice contributes an albedo effect - a white surface that reflects sunlight away from the planet.
Therefore, the Arctic is an important region for projecting what the future intensity of global warming will be. If the ice were to disappear, more solar radiation would reach the Earth.
"We need a climate model that is tailored to the Arctic," said Heuze.
"In general, you can't use the same model for the entire planet, as conditions vary considerably.
"A better idea would be to create a specific model for the Arctic that correctly factors in the processes occurring in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding land areas," said Heuze.