The team said the evidence they have uncovered indicates the Arctic could see the complete loss of sea ice within 15 years
A new study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, supports predictions that the Arctic could be free of sea ice by 2035, reports the Independent.
High temperatures in the Arctic during the last interglacial -- the warm period around 127,000 years ago -- have puzzled scientists for decades.
Now the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre climate model has enabled an international team of researchers to compare Arctic sea ice conditions during the last interglacial with present day.
Their findings are important for improving predictions of future sea ice change.
The team said the evidence they have uncovered indicates the Arctic could see the complete loss of sea ice within 15 years.
This is because the model reveals that intense spring sunshine resulted in the creation of large numbers of “melt ponds.”
These melt ponds are important because they dictate how much sunlight is absorbed by the ice sheets and how much is reflected back into space.
Ice has a higher albedo (reflectivity) than water, and as the number and size of melt ponds grow, consequently the amount of energy absorbed from the sun rises - warming the planet further and causing further melting.
The research team said the findings are significant in improving predictions of future sea ice change.
Using the model to look at Arctic sea ice during the last interglacial epoch, the team concluded the impact of intense springtime sunshine created many melt ponds, which played a crucial role in sea ice melt.
A simulation of the future using the same model indicates the Arctic may become sea ice-free by 2035, the team said.
Dr Maria Vittoria Guarino, Earth system modeller at the British Antarctic Survey, and joint lead author of the study said: “High temperatures in the Arctic have puzzled scientists for decades.
“Unravelling this mystery was technically and scientifically challenging. For the first time, we can begin to see how the Arctic became sea ice-free during the last interglacial.
“The advances made in climate modelling means that we can create a more accurate simulation of the Earth’s past climate, which, in turn gives us greater confidence in model predictions for the future.”