Ice-free Arctic may come as soon as 2054, study says

Cruise ships and oil tankers may be sailing through ice-free waters of the Arctic as early as 2054, according to a new study that narrows to a handful of years the uncertainty of when this climate-change milestone will occur. Previous studies have pegged it to everywhere between 2015 and 2100.

The implications of an ice-free Arctic range from loss of habitat for polar bears and seals to a surge in extreme weather around the world and an acceleration of global climate change, according to Arctic experts.

It also matters for ships, noted study leader Jiping Liu, an assistant professor in the department of atmospheric and environmental sciences at the State University of New York at Albany. “If the Arctic is totally ice free, you don’t need to go through a specific route, you can go anywhere,” he told NBC News.