Study from decades ago proved remarkably accurate in showing how global warming would affect the Arctic’s sea ice, currently in steep decline.
Arctic sea ice has reached record lows this winter around Greenland and elsewhere, following the predictions of remarkably accurate models based on global warming. Credit: Getty Images
Claire Parkinson, now a senior climate change scientist at NASA, first began studying global warming’s impact on Arctic sea ice in 1978, when she was a promising new researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Back then, what she and a colleague found was not only groundbreaking, it pretty accurately predicted what is happening now in the Arctic, as sea ice levels break record low after record low.
Parkinson’s study, which was published in 1979, found that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide from preindustrial levels would cause the Arctic to become ice-free in late summer months, probably by the middle of the 21st century. It hasn’t been ice-free in more than 100,000 years.
Although carbon dioxide levels have not yet doubled, the ice is rapidly disappearing. This record melt confirms the outlook from Parkinson’s 1979 model.
“It was one of these landmark papers,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. “She was the first to put together the thermodynamic sea ice model.”