Arctic Sea Ice Hits Another Terrifying Milestone

Arctic Sea Ice Hits Another Terrifying Milestone

Another day, another scientific analysis revealing our unstoppable impact on planet Earth. Arctic sea ice coverage peaked at 14.52 million square miles this year, a wintertime low since our satellites began monitoring sea ice extent in 1979. This shouldn't come as a surprise. The wintertime Arctic sea ice extent has been shrinking for years -- in fact, the 13 puniest winter ice showings on record all occurred in the last 13 years. We've bested our "hottest month on record" record for numerous consecutive months.

But even among a streak of exceptionally hot years that are clearly indicative of an underlying trend, 2016 has been astonishing. Temperatures at the North Pole rose above freezing around New Years -- more than 10C higher than they should have been. Throughout January and February the planet roasted, but especially the Arctic, where temperatures averaged nearly 20C above normal. NASA's global heat anomaly map for February lays out the situation:

Arctic Sea Ice Hits Another Terrifying Milestone

Image: NASA

Our planet is warming up very quickly right now, due to a complex series of heat exchange processes between the ocean and the atmosphere that are being aggravated by the strongest El NiƱo on record and the ever-rising concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. And the faster the mercury rises, the more we aggravate planetary feedback loops. For instance, as the amount of shiny white surface area shrinks, the Arctic absorbs more heat, which ultimately leads to additional melting of shiny white surfaces.

"As winter sea ice disappears, areas of unusually warm air temperatures in the Arctic will expand," Rutgers climate scientist Jennifer Francis explained in a statement. "These are also areas of increased evaporation, and the resulting water vapour will contribute to increased cloudiness, which in winter, further warms the surface."

As a former Earth scientist, watching a series of complex ocean-atmosphere-biosphere feedback loops rev up in real-time is fascinating. As a human whose prospects of escaping to Mars are slim to nil, it's terrifying.


Image: NASA scientific visualisation studio

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    Do not forget to mention that Antarctic ice is increasing.


        Article is two years old but here you go:

          interesting, but still, from that page "globally, the decreases in Arctic sea ice far exceed the increases in Antarctic sea ice."

          Last edited 30/03/16 12:52 pm

            Not surprising given that the Arctic is all sea ice and Antarctica is not.

    Is this warmer and less ice than in 1976 before records began when we had a record breaking summer? Is it warmer than in medieval times when the Vikings farmed in Greenland and the north west passage had no ice? Got to love man made panics based on man made records!

      The physics of CO2 increase are hardly in debate, only the specific impact in relatively small regions over short time periods. Some climatic records go back thousands (tree rings) and tens of thousands of years (ice cores). We know what is going to happen at a global scale at 400ppm and beyond. Better pray to your favoured deity or drug of choice you live where the impact is least.

    All I know is that I live at the arse end of the world.. We had the hottest summer on record this year. I should be shivering in my uggs, but I'm not. Get over the climate change bullshit. It's a silly argument designed to slug the working class. We have cold years, we have dry/hot years... Depends what direction the wind blows..

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