An ice-free Arctic

The Arctic Ocean may turn ice-free in the next 20 years, a lot sooner than expected, thanks to the problem of global warming. Unless we hugely reduce the production of greenhouse gases on Earth, the Arctic will be free of ice at the end of summer by the year 2040.

As you know the Arctic is a cold ocean, part of which stays frozen through the year. That is changing now. As humans burn more coal and oil to produce electricity and fuel for vehicles, we are releasing gases like carbon di-oxide and methane which form a layer around Earth, trapping the Sun’s heat within (much like a greenhouse traps heat for plants to grow).

As temperatures rise, especially in summer, heat is causing ice that has stayed frozen for centuries to melt. New climate models show that this will cause the Arctic to turn ice-free around the month of September (when summer ends in the north) by the time we hit year 2040. That is at least 10-20 years earlier than expected.

What does an ice-free Arctic mean?

Ships will be able to cross from Asia to Europe faster while connecting the Pacific and Atlantic will also be easier. But the disappearance of ice may also change climate. Greater ship traffic on the once frozen Arctic may also harm the wildlife living there.