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Arctic Ice Actually 'Grew By A Third' In 2013 Thanks To Cool Summer, Say Scientists

21/07/2015 12:11 BST | Updated 21/07/2015 12:59 BST

Arctic sea ice increased by a third after an unusually cool summer in 2013, scientists have said, but it doesn't mean the fight against climate change is over.

Although the volume of ice continued increasing into 2014, and compensated for losses recorded in the three previous years, researchers say the growth is a one off.

"Between 2010 and 2012, there was a 14% reduction in Arctic sea ice volume, in keeping with the long-term decline in extent," the report, published in the Nature Geoscience journal, read. "However, we observe 33% and 25% more ice in autumn 2013 and 2014, respectively, relative to the 2010–2012 seasonal mean, which offset earlier losses."

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A polar monitoring spacecraft used by the researchers in the Lincoln Sea, north of Greenland

The increase in ice was caused by the retention of thick sea ice northwest of Greenland, the report continues. A 5% drop in the number of days on which melting occurred, thanks to weather conditions akin to those of the 1990s, also contributed to the growth.

Rachel Tilling, Andy Ridout, Andrew Shepherd and Duncan Wingham, authors of the report, also noted the volume of springtime Arctic sea ice had remained stable.

"The sharp increase in sea ice volume after just one cool summer suggests that Arctic sea ice may be more resilient than has been previously considered."

But the scientists say the data is a one-off, and climate change will continue to shrink Arctic ice in the coming decades. Since 1980, satellite observations have monitored a 40% decrease in the extent of sea ice cover in Arctic, the BBC notes.

Speaking to HuffPost UK, Rachel Tilling said the long-term trend in Arctic temperature is upwards, while sea ice volume is down.

"However, in all climate systems we’d expect to see some natural variability about this trend, which we believe was the case in 2013," she continued. "Unfortunately, I think the data will fuel climate change deniers' arguments that the world isn't warming up.

"But this is not the case. As I mentioned above, the long-term trend in Arctic temperature is upwards and in sea ice volume is downwards. 2013 was simply an anomalous year.

"The jump in the amount of sea ice in 2013 wound back the clock a few years on the gradual decline that has happened over the past few decades. If somebody has predicted ice free conditions in the near future, then they should certainly reflect on what our measurements add to the picture. However, to reiterate, again, we do expect volume to decrease further if temperatures continue to increase."

The researchers added they believe sea ice is more sensitive to temperature changes than previously thought. Although this could signal a positive change for the Arctic during cooler conditions, it also means the ice will be less resilient during warmer temperatures.

Dr Benny Pieser, director of The Global Warming Policy Foundation, which aims to challenge "extremely damaging and harmful policies" around the effects of climate change, said the paper "doesn't change anything".

"We've been monitoring both Arctic and Antarctic ice caps for a long time, and the basic problem for everyone trying to understand what's going on is that our observational data only starts with the satellite age - so it goes back about 30 years," he told HuffPost UK.

"We don't fully know what the ice caps looked like 50 or 100 years ago, and therefore it is difficult to make long-term predictions.

"The melting of ice caps may be slower than thought, as there were predictions they'd be gone by now. Basically it all depends on what global temperatures are going to do in the coming decades. The good news about this study is it is not a one way street, there are periods where the ice can recover.

"I don't think one paper can tell you much, we know global temperature has more or less stalled over the past 10 to 15 years," he continued. "We are increasing CO2 emission at an accelerating rate but temperatures aren't rising as fast as predicted."

The findings were initially published in 2013, but have since been updated to include 2014 data.

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