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This is How Much Arctic Sea Ice You are Melting, According to Scientists

Nov 07, 2016 04:41 AM EST

Scientists reveal how each individual contributes to the melting of the Arctic sea ice.

According to a new study, which was published in the journal Science, for each ton of carbon dioxide that any person on Earth emits, three square meters of Arctic summer sea ice are lost.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology led by Dirk Notz took samples of the Arctic sea ice at Spitzbergen and examined them to understand the development of sea ice in the region. After comparing corresponding model calculations with data from satellite measurements, the researchers discovered a linear relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and the area of Arctic summer ice. Moreover, the researchers found that earlier climate models have underestimated the loss of Arctic sea ice.

"So far, climate change has often felt like a rather abstract notion. Our results allow us to overcome this perception," Julienne Stroeve, co-author of the study, said in a statement. "It seems that it's not primarily the sea ice models that are responsible for the mismatch. The ice just melts too slowly in the models because their Arctic warming is too weak."

The new measurement provides a sense of how much damage an individual's personal lifestyle could cause to the Arctic sea ice. For instance, the average American emits about 16 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to data from the World Bank. This follows that the average American is melting about 50 square meters of Arctic sea ice per year.

The study also reveals that the two degrees Celsius warming target set in the recent UN Climate Conference will not allow Arctic summer sea ice to survive. "Given the observed sensitivity of the ice cover, the sea ice will be gone throughout September once another 1000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide have been emitted," the researchers said.

The melting Arctic sea ice is one of the biggest indicators of climate change. Over the past 40 years, the summer sea ice has shrunk by more than half. In September, satellite observations have revealed that the Arctic sea ice was at its second lowest ever recorded, at 4.169 million square kilometers. The lowest was in 2012 when Arctic sea ice was only 3.41 million square kilometers.

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