The Arctic sea ice death spiral continues at pace, with April 2017 tying April 2016 for lowest Arctic sea ice extent ever (for an April). To be more specific, every day of April 2017 either set a new record low for Arctic sea ice extent or came within 36,000 square miles of doing so.
In other words, it’s looking increasingly likely that 2017 will see a new record-low sea ice extent set in the Arctic later this summer.
Temperatures in the region are also up considerably. “Temperatures averaged up to 14° Fahrenheit above normal in part of the Arctic last month, fueling the melt season. Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center said the rate of ice loss was about average,” Climate Central notes.
“But after hitting a record low maximum in March, there’s simply less sea ice to melt. That means even in an average month, records are more likely to be set. One of the biggest issues for sea ice is its increasingly youthful appearance. Young ice is more susceptible to the vagaries of weather, whether it be warm air or water or storms that knock it around and break it up.
“Ice older than 5 years in age now only comprises 5% of the Arctic’s ice pack. It accounted for 30% of all Arctic sea ice in 1984, but relentless warmth driven by rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has slowly squeezed it out of existence. Young ice has sprung up in its place and now accounts for nearly 70% of all Arctic ice, up from just 35% just 3 decades ago.”
In the press announcement from the NSIDC that revealed the state of Arctic sea ice extent was this line (that’s particularly worth reposting): “The group noted that the ice was unusually broken up and reduced to rubble, with few large multi-year floes, forcing the pilots to land on refrozen leads that at times were only 70 centimeters (28 inches) thick. Pilots remarked that they had never seen the ice look like this.”
We’ll keep you posted as the Arctic melt season gets further underway.
- Zack Labe
- National Snow and Ice Data Center, courtesy M. Tschudi, C. Fowler, J. Maslanik, R. Stewart/University of Colorado Boulder; W. Meier/NASA Cryospheric Sciences
- The last graph shows Antarctic sea ice extent as of May 2, 2017, along with daily ice extent data for 4 previous years. 2017 is shown in blue, 2016 in green, 2015 in orange, 2014 in dashed brown, and 2013 in purple. The 1981 to 2010 median is in dark gray. The gray areas around the median line show the interquartile and interdecile ranges of the data. The data come from the Sea Ice Index. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center
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