Much of the record breaking loss of ice in the Arctic ocean in recent years is down to the region’s swirling winds and is not a direct result of global warming, a new study reveals.
Ice blown out of the region by Arctic winds can explain around one-third of the steep downward trend in sea ice extent in the region since 1979.
The study does not question that global warming is also melting ice in the Arctic, but it could raise doubts about high-profile claims that the region has passed a climate “tipping point” that could see ice loss sharply accelerate in coming years.
The new findings also help to explain the massive loss of Arctic ice seen in the summers of 2007-08, which prompted suggestions that the summertime Arctic Ocean could be ice-free withing a decade. About half of the variation in maximum ice loss each September is down to changes in wind patterns.