The world’s oceans are “one of the most dangerous places on Earth,” and it’s “not likely to improve” as climate change takes its toll, according to an international team of scientists led by the University of Florida.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, warns that “climate change will further damage the polar ice caps and threaten sea ice.”
But the researchers say it is unlikely that the planet will recover by 2100, as it did in the past few decades.
The ice caps have been retreating for decades, and scientists are now warning that they are “at their lowest levels in the history of the planet.”
“Climate change is going to change the ocean, but it is going too slowly to make any significant impact on sea ice,” lead author Chris Field said in a statement.
“This means we need to do something very quick.”
Field and his colleagues say the research team has identified three key factors that could make the ice caps more vulnerable to climate change: warmer ocean temperatures, increasing concentrations of CO2, and more intense storms.
“We need to start moving away from CO2 as quickly as possible and from CO3 as rapidly as possible,” Field said.
The researchers say that “atmospheric CO2 concentrations will remain well below the pre-industrial levels,” while sea ice is likely to remain “extremely vulnerable.”
Field, a former NASA scientist who now heads the UF Antarctic Institute, said that “as CO2 increases, sea ice loss will be exacerbated.”
The authors say that even with a reduction in CO2 emissions, the world’s seas could see an increase in ocean temperature of between 0.3 and 1.2 degrees Celsius (1.7 to 3.1 degrees Fahrenheit), with more severe storms likely to occur more frequently and more frequently.
Field and other scientists say the oceans are currently “tipping over,” with the oceans being more acidic and melting at a faster rate than ever.
“The oceans are turning into a very dangerous place for humans to be in,” Field added.
“And we’ve seen a dramatic increase in CO 2 in the last few decades.”
He said that if the world continues on the current trajectory, the seas could become “a world-class environmental disaster” by 2100.
This summer, scientists released a report predicting that by 2065, the polar regions could be at risk of sea ice melting at an alarming rate, with some parts of the world predicted to be “in a permanent ice age.”
The report by scientists at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Polar Research Institute (IUCN) says that “the Arctic sea ice extent is expected to decline significantly in the coming decades.”
That prediction has already been borne out by observations.
Last month, a satellite captured images showing what looked like the polar islands of Greenland and East Antarctica as they were starting to melt, with the area stretching for more than a thousand miles (1,100 kilometers) and containing about a third of the continent.
The images were taken by NASA’s CryoSat-2 satellite, which was launched in 2015.
Scientists said the images show the areas in East Antarctica have been losing about 2.5 million square miles (7.3 million square kilometers) of ice per year.
That’s more than enough ice to cover the entire continent and could cause sea level to rise by up to 12 inches by 2100 if the warming continues unabated.
The new study said that in addition to the loss of sea-ice in the Arctic, the Antarctic ice sheet is also melting at the fastest rate on record.
The research team looked at the extent of sea surface temperature change in the Antarctic over the past five years and found that the region has lost more than 8,000 square miles of ice in the area.
The scientists said that while “some parts of East Antarctica were already at or above average ice loss rates,” the region could potentially be at greater risk if warming continues unchecked.
“Sea-level rise is likely in most of the Antarctic,” the study authors wrote.
“In the region where we expect most of sea level rise to occur, the ice is melting faster and faster.”
The new research was supported by NASA.
It comes as the United Nations climate change conference in Paris comes to an end this week.
The Trump administration has promised to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, a move that could be seen as a major setback to efforts to curb global warming.