It's been apparent for several years now that the Arctic is melting. But it's melting much faster than most studies previously predicted. As early as 2020 and no later than 2050, it will be almost completely ice-free, according to a new paper out this week. "It's pretty scary how rapidly all this Arctic change is happening," said James Overland, lead author of the new study, and a research oceanographer with the US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "The Arctic is a real indicator of global change here, that's why we wrote the paper," he told The Verge.
Specifically, Overland explained that the loss of the majority of Arctic sea ice during future summer melt seasons will have three major impacts: it will open the door for drilling and shipping in the region, it will ruin the habitats for polar bears and marine mammals, and eventually, it could cause more extreme weather events for us who live down in the more southern latitudes. "It's hard right now to say that 'this particular snowstorm two years ago was caused by what was going on in the Arctic,' or that the path of Hurricane Sandy was caused by Arctic changes, but there are indications we will see more extreme weather as the Arctic warms up."