A new study conducted by an international team of 300 researchers from the Arctic Council, which is comprised of the eight nations including the U.S. with Arctic territories suggests that the northern ice cap is warming at twice the global rate.
According to New Scientist, this could lead to substantial rises in sea level and an intensification of global warming via a positive feedback mechanism.
"The projections for the future show a two to three times higher warming rate than for the rest of the world. That will have consequences for the physical, ecological and human systems," Pel Prestrud, vice-chairman of the steering committee for the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) report was quoted as saying.
According to the average of five climate models run by the scientists, the Arctic will lose 50 to 60% of its ice distribution by 2100. One of the five models predicts that by 2070, the Artic will be so warm it will no longer have any ice in the summer.
Prestrud added that the report draws on models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its predictions. It has based the Arctic projections on the IPCC's "middle scenario", where global warming gas emissions are double their pre-industrial level. This would see sea level rising between 10 and 90 centimetres in this century.
One reason for the Arctic's sensitivity is that the air there is extremely dry compared to air at lower latitudes which means that less energy is used up in evaporating water, leaving more as heat. "It's a value judgment. For the oil industry it will be an advantage if the ice disappears, increasing access to oil and gas reserves," Prestrud said.