Publication Date November 4, 2016

Study links human actions to specific Arctic sea ice melt

Arctic
Ice floats in the Arctic near Svalbard, Norwary. Photo: Dirk Notz via AP

Driving a gas-powered car about 90 miles — the distance between New York and Philadelphia — melts about a square foot of Arctic sea ice in the critical month of September, according to a new study that directly links carbon pollution to the amount of ice that’s thawing.

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The study calculates that for every ton of carbon dioxide put in the air, there’s 29 square feet less of sea ice (for every metric ton, there’s 3 square yards less) during the crucial month when the Arctic region is least frozen. Using observations, statistics and 30 different computer models, the study authors show heat-trapping gases cause warming and the melting of sea ice in a way that can be translated into a simple mathematical formula.

There’s “a very clear linear relationship” between carbon dioxide emissions and sea ice retreat in September, especially at the southern boundary edges, said study lead author Dirk Notz, a climate scientist at Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany.

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Rutgers University marine scientist Jennifer Francis, who wasn’t part of the study, said the link was so clear and direct that “we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Arctic sea ice is disappearing because of increased carbon dioxide.”