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Climate Change

The Arctic’s Rapid Sea Ice Decline

Originally published on Sustainnovate.
By Henry Lindon

As the vast majority reading this already know, this year’s winter has been quite strange — with temperatures throughout much of the northern hemisphere being considerably higher than at any other time since high-accuracy records began over a hundred years ago.

Accompanying the rather strangely warm winter, reports of record-low levels of Arctic sea ice have been making the rounds lately — with January and February 2016 both seeing new record seasonal lows set.

Part of what’s been driving this rapid decline in Arctic sea ice extent has been the collapse of sea ice age in the region — in other words, the extent of thicker, older ice in the Arctic Ocean has been declining rapidly. This sets the stage for faster and more extensive melting and disintegration during the summer months — as younger, thinner sea ice melts far faster and easier than older ice does.

The video above showcases this change in sea ice age. Roughly 30 years ago (1985), old sea ice (older than 4 years) comprised around 20% of total Arctic sea ice pack. Now that figure resides around 3%. As an inverse of that situation, young ice comprised around 50% of Arctic sea ice pack in 1985, but now it comprises around 70%.

With the speed of the changes that are occurring in the Arctic, it probably won’t be all that long until the summers are essentially sea-ice free in the region.

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