Climate breakdown: the Arctic Ocean could beice-freeby the 2030s


  • The Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer by the 2030s, even if we do a good job of reducing emissions between now and then. That’s the worrying conclusion of a new study inNature Communications.

The background

  • Predictions of an ice-free Arctic Ocean have a long and complicated history, and the 2030s is sooner than most scientists had thought possible.
  • The Arctic has been experiencing climate heating faster than any other part of the planet.
  • As it is at the frontline of climate change, the eyes of many scientists and local indigenous people have been on the sea ice that covers much of the Arctic Ocean in winter.
  • This thin film of frozen seawater expands and contracts with the seasons, reaching a minimum area in September each year.
  • The ice which remains at the end of summer is called multiyear sea ice and is considerably thicker than its seasonal counterpart. It acts as barrier to the transfer of both moisture and heat between the ocean and atmosphere.
  •  Over the past 40 years this multiyear sea ice has shrunk from around 7 million sq. km to 4 million.
  • That is a loss equivalent to roughly the size of India or 12 UKs. In other words, it’s a big signal, one of the most stark and dramatic signs of fundamental change to the climate system anywhere in the world.

Blue Ocean Event (BOE)

  • A Blue Ocean Event (BOE) is probably something you’ve never heard of, but in just a few years it will be the biggest story that everyone is talking about.
  • A BOE is when the Arctic Ocean changes from being covered in ice year-round and reflecting most of the sunlight that impacts it back into space to being mostly ice-free blue water for a period of time during the warm season (May through October), which will cause it to absorb most of the sunlight that impacts it.
  •  Once a BOE occurs during a warm season, the Arctic Ocean water will refreeze during the following cold season.
  • However, since the water will be slightly warmer each year, longer Blue Ocean Events are expected with each passing warm season, causing extensive impacts to the global climate and human habitat.
  •  Blue water, which is dark, absorbs more sunlight than white ice, due to the fact that darker colors naturally absorb more sunlight than lighter colors, a phenomenon known as the “albedo effect.”
  • One problem with predicting when this might occur is that sea ice is notoriously difficult to model because it is influenced by both atmospheric and oceanic circulation as well as the flow of heat between these two parts of the climate system.

The Consequences

  • There is still plenty of uncertainty around the exact date – about 20 years or so– because of natural chaotic fluctuations in the climate system. But compared to previous research, the new study still brings forward the most likely timing of a blue ocean event by about a decade.
  • Arctic sea ice is an important component of the climate system. As it dramatically reduces the amount of sunlight absorbed by the ocean, removing this ice is predicted to further accelerate warming, through a process known as a positive feedback.
  • This, in turn, will make the Greenland ice sheet melt faster, which is already a major contributor to-sea level rise.
  • The loss of sea ice in summer would also mean changes in atmospheric circulation and storm tracks, and fundamental shifts in ocean biological activity.

Way forward

  • In conclusion, temperatures could rise strongly by 2026, resulting in humans going extinct, making it in many respects rather futile to speculate about what will happen beyond 2026.
  • On the other hand, the right thing to do is to help avoid the worst things from happening, through comprehensive and effective action through a Climate Plan.

Editorial 2: Anxiety disorders and its treatment: the stigma remains


  • Anxiety disorders are among the most frequently occurring mental health problems in the community today. They often go unrecognised in primary care settings due tolack of awareness and available human resources.


  • Anxiety, as an emotion, is experienced by many in day-to-day life. In some, it can become persistent and disabling.
  • Fear is an emotional response to perceived imminent threat or danger associated with urges to flee or fight.
  • This ‘fight-or-flight response’ is characterised by a startled response and physiological changes.
  • In contrast, anxiety is the apprehensive anticipation of future danger or misfortune accompanied by a feeling of worry, distress, and/or bodily symptoms of tension.

Historical context

  • Until the last part of the 19th century, anxiety disorders were not classified separately from other mood disorders, such as depression.
  • In 1895, Sigmund Freud first suggested that people with mainly anxiety symptoms should be differentiated from depression. He gave the name “anxiety neurosis” to this entity.
  • Freud’s original anxiety neurosis included people with phobias and panic attacks. He subsequently divided them into two groups – anxiety neurosis and anxiety hysteria.
  • The first group included people with mainly psychological symptoms of anxiety, while the second group had people with phobias and physical symptoms of anxiety.

Prevalence and onset of anxiety

  • India’s National Mental Health Survey (NMHS) of 2015-2016 found the prevalence of neurosis and stress-related disorders to be 3.5%.
  • These disorders were twice as common in women as compared to men.
  • There is evidence that the developmental period of childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood are periods of high risk for the onset of anxiety disorders.

Clinical features of anxiety

1. Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterised by excessive worrying (which lasts more than six months) and is not restricted to particular circumstances — for example, only when attending a social event.

  • Common features include apprehension, tension, difficulty concentrating, and autonomic symptoms such as dry mouth or abdominal discomfort.

2. Panic disorder is characterised by recurrent unexpected surges of severe anxiety (also known as panic attacks), which typically peak within 10 minutes and last around 30-45 minutes.

  • They are characterised by a sudden onset of palpitations, choking sensation, chest pain, dizziness, depersonalisation (patients feel that they have changed and feel divorced from their own self), derealisation (patients feel that the world has become unreal, distorted or falsified), and fear of dying or losing control.

3. Social anxiety disorder is characterised by the intense, persistent fear of being scrutinised or evaluated negatively by others.

  • Patients anticipate ridicule or humiliation, and avoid many social situations or endure them with great distress.
  • Shyness is a core symptom of social phobia

4. Separation anxiety disorder is characterised by fear or anxiety concerning separation from those to whom an individual is attached.

  • Common features include excessive distress when experiencing or anticipating separation from home, and persistent excessive worries about potential harms to attachment figures or untoward events that might result in separation.

5. Specific (simple) phobia is characterised by the fear of particular objects, animals or situations. Common specific phobias include fears of animals, blood, injection, flying, heights, lifts, enclosed spaces, dental treatment, and choking.

Treating anxiety

  • The need for treatment is determined by ascertaining the severity and persistence of symptoms, their impact on everyday life, the co-occurrence of depressive symptoms, and previous response to medication or psychotherapy.
  • The choice of treatment is influenced by clinical characteristics, patient and doctor preferences, and the local availability of potential interventions.
  • There is much overlap across anxiety disorders for evidence-based effective therapies, such as the prescription of a selective serotonin re uptake inhibitor (SSRI) or a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but there are differences in treatment response between disorders.


  • Anxiety disorders are among the most frequently occurring mental health problems in the community today. They often go unrecognised in primary care settings due to stigma, lack of awareness, and lack of locally available human resources. Therefore it is vital to increase public awareness of anxiety disorders and the fact that they are treatable with effective interventions.


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