A group of scientists in March 2017 stated in a study that rapid loss of Arctic sea ice in recent decades is partly driven by natural swings. They went on to state that it ice loss in Arctic is not just global warming triggered by human activities. The paper was published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study focuses specifically on what this atmospheric circulation means for Arctic sea ice in September, when the ocean reaches its maximum area of open water.
The study’s lead author is Qinghua Ding, climate scientist at the University of California at Santa Barbara in the US. The research indicates that a shift in wind patterns is responsible for about 60% of sea ice loss in the Arctic Ocean since 1979. Some of this shift is related to climate change. However, the research showed that 30-50% of the observed sea ice loss since 1979 is due to natural variations in this large-scale atmospheric pattern. Natural variability has helped to accelerate the melting of the ice, especially over the past two decades.
The study provides the mechanism and uses a new approach to illuminate the processes that are responsible for these changes. The study shows how much of the observed sea ice trend that has been seen in recent decades in the Arctic is due to natural variability and how much is due to greenhouse gases. The scientists believe that teasing apart the natural and human-caused parts of sea ice decline would help to foretell future sea ice conditions in Arctic summer. The study could help narrow down huge uncertainties about when the Arctic ice will vanish.