Climate: Arctic sea ice at record low in January

Antarctic sea ice also below average

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Arctic sea ice extent is declining at a rate of about 3.2 percent per decade. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Arctic sea ice extent in January  was the lowest in the satellite record, according to the latest monthly update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Scientists said the new record monthly low was likely the result of  unusually high air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean and a strong negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation for the first three weeks of the month.

Meanwhile in the Antarctic, this year’s extent was lower than average for January, in contrast to the record high extents in January 2015.

In the Arctic, the ice extent average 5.2 million square miles, 402,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average and 35,000 square miles below the previous record January low that occurred in 2011.

Across most of the Arctic Ocean, air temperatures ran more than 13 degrees above average for most of January as a cyclical air pressure shift enabled warm air to flow northward toward the Arctic.

Over the long term, January sea ice extent is shrinking at a rate of about 3.2 percent per decade. Sea ice extent has been below 14.25 million square miles every year since 2005, according to the NSIDC.

But some projections suggest that winter sea ice extent could hold steady or even increase in the short term because of changes in a key Atlantic Ocean current that transports cold water northward. Observational data show a slight upward trend in Arctic sea ice extent from 2005 to 2015.

See the full NSIDC update here.

Climate: One more thing to worry about?

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Ongoing studies are detailing how melting ice sheets will affect sea level.

Eastern Greenland changes could threaten critical ocean current

By Bob Berwyn

The global climate agreement reached late last year in Paris isn’t going to stop the Greenland Ice Sheet from melting anytime soon. Even with an immediate halt to greenhouse gas emissions. there may be centuries more melting ahead, according to climate scientists.

And the meltdown could be more widespread than previously thought, according to National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist Lora Koenig, who gave an update on the latest research during this week’s Glen Gerberg Weather and Climate Summit in Breckenridge. Continue reading

Weather and climate summit returns to Breckenridge

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Greenland’s ice is melting faster these days, posing a sea level threat to densely populated cities around the world. @bberwyn photo.

This year edition features sessions on Arctic ice melt and western wildfires

Staff Report

There’s a global climate deal on the books, but humankind will continue to grapple with the effects of greenhouse gas emissions for decades to come, including the almost inevitable meltdown of ice sheets and glaciers that will raise sea level steadily.

Scientists aren’t quite sure yet how high the waters will rise, but new measurement tools and more sophisticated models can help refine the projections. Those estimates are important, because two-thirds of the world’s cities have vulnerable populations of five million or more living in at-risk areas, less than 10 meters above sea level, according to Dr. Lora Koenig
a research scientist with the National Snow & Ice Data Center. Continue reading

Shell wants to hang on to Arctic Ocean drilling leases

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Shell isn’t ready completely give up on the idea of drilling for fossil fuel in the Arctic Ocean.

Company seeks extension from appeals board

Staff Report

*Read more Summit Voice stories on Shell’s ill-fated Arctic drilling program here.

It was big news when Shell Oil in September announced it was shutting down its contested Arctic drilling program, but the company apparently doesn’t want give up completely. Just a couple of months after the big news, Shell sought at least extend the life of its leases in the region.

Without an extension, the company’s Beaufort Sea leases are set to expire in 2017, and its Chukchi Sea leases in 2020. The U.S. Interior Department has already denied the extension, but company is now challenging that decision with the Department of Interior Board of Land Appeals. Continue reading

Climate: Arctic sea ice near record-low extent

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Antarctic sea ice is back to a near average extent after running well above average for several years. @bberwyn photo.

End of year heat wave slowed expansion

Staff Report

Arctic sea ice extent in December ended up as the fourth-lowest on record, and is still hovering near a record low in mid-January, according to the latest monthly update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Through 2015, the linear rate of decline for December sea ice extent is 3.4 percent per decade (about 17,000 miles) per year.

For the month, the sea ice extent averaged 4.74 million square miles, about 301,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average for the month. The rate of sea ice growth slowed slightly throughout December and nearly stopped early in January, federal ice trackers said, suspecting that a period of unusually warm temperatures in the Arctic caused the slowdown. Continue reading

Climate: Extreme Greenland Ice Sheet melting episodes change runoff regime

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Extreme melting on the surface of the Greenland ice sheet could change the sea level rise equation.

Study shows that 2012 melting created a dense ice cap

Staff Report

When warm temperatures in 2012 caused an extreme melting episode across much of the Greenland Ice Sheet, it may have fundamentally altered the way the near-surface snow layers absorb water, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change.

The melting resulted in the formation of a thick layer of ice atop the previously porous surface. Subsequently, meltwater ran off the surface and to the ocean, with potential impacts on sea level, according to York University Professor William Colgan. Continue reading

Annual NOAA report documents continued global warming impacts in the Arctic

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The Arctic continues to warm much faster than the rest of the planet, according to NOAA’s annual Arctic report card.

Scientists track fish populations, ice extent and river discharge

Staff Report

Temperatures across the Arctic were the warmest on record in 2015, ranging more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit above average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual Arctic report card.

Released earlier this month, the report showed documents increasing air and sea surface temperatures, decreasing sea ice extent and Greenland ice sheet mass, and changing behavior of fish and walrus in the region.

The report card is a “key tool” to understanding how the changes will affect communities, businesses, and people around the world,” according NOAA Chief Scientist Dr. Rick Spinrad. Continue reading

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