Print Article: A voyage into the great Arctic meltdown
Researchers are trying to understand how much of the melting is due to the extreme natural variability in the northern polar climate system and how much is due to global warming caused by humans. The Arctic Oscillation climate pattern, which plays a big part in the weather patterns in the northern hemisphere, has been in "positive" mode in recent decades bringing higher temperatures to the Arctic.
Dr Igor Polyakov, an oceanographer from the International Arctic Research Centre in Fairbanks, Alaska, explained that natural variability as well as global warming is crucial to understanding the ice melt. "A combination of these two forces led to what we observe now and we should not ignore either forces" he said.
The consensus among scientists is that while the natural variability in the Arctic is an important contributor to climate change there, the climate models cannot explain the rapid loss of sea ice without including "human-induced" global warming. This means human activity such as burning fossil fuels and land clearing which are releasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
"There have been numerous models run that have looked at that and basically they can't reproduce the ice loss we've had with natural variability," said Dr Perovich. "You have to add a carbon dioxide warming component to it."