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: 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: ‘We are headed for a seasonally ice-free ocean’

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Sparse ice along the east coast of Greenland during the peak of the summer melt season. @bberwyn photo.

Arctic once again loses thick multiyear ice

Staff Report

At the end of its melt season, the Arctic’s ice cover fell to the fourth lowest extent in the satellite record, both in the daily and monthly average, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Sea ice extent hit 4.41 million square kilometers (1.70 million square miles) on September 11 and averaged 4.63 million square kilometers (1.79 million square miles) for the month of September.

This year edged out 2008 as the fourth lowest extent since satellites started regularly monitoring sea ice in 1979. The lowest Arctic extent on record occurred in 2012, when sea ice measured 3.62 million square kilometers (1.40 million square miles). Continue reading

Can caribou and goose eggs help polar bears survive global warming?

 Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

New study suggests land-based food sources may help polar bears stave off starvation as sea ice melts

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientific discussions over the fate of polar bears in the global warming may heat up as a new study found that some of the Arctic predators may be able to survive by eating caribou and snow geese instead of eggs.

Many previous studies have suggested that polar bears will be hard-pressed to survive extreme changes in their Arctic habitat, but the new research by scientists with the American Museum of Natural History, published in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests the outlook may not be quite so grim. Continue reading

Climate: Planning for the polar meltdown

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Melting Arctic sea ice has spurred plans for a global Polar Prediction Project. @bberwyn photo.

Can the world find a realistic way to deal with changing conditions at the ends of the Earth?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate scientists and policy makers from around the world last month agreed on an international action plan to help minimize the risks — and identify opportunities — associated with rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic environments.

The agreement came at a mid-July conference, when stakeholders from around the world finalized plans for the Polar Prediction Project, which aims to accelerate and consolidate research, observing, modelling, verification and educational activities.

With the Arctic warming about twice as fast as the rest of the world, there  is growing interest in the polar regions, where changes will affect the rest of the world. Continue reading

Arctic sea ice dwindles to second-lowest extent ever

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Arctic sea ice now at it’s second-lowest extent on record. @bberwyn photo.

Antarctic sea ice extent below average for the first time in four years

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a mid-month update, researchers with the National Snow and Ice Data Center said that Arctic sea ice has dwindled to the second-lowest extent on record, with an above-average melt rate during the first half of August. The only time there was less sea ice was in 2012, which set the record for the lowest extent.

The NSIDC also reported that Antarctic sea ice extent is below the 1981 to 2010 average for the first time in nearly four years. Antarctic sea ice expanded by just 96,500 square miles between August 1 and August 17, and retreated around the Antarctic Peninsula, in the Ross Sea, and around the coast of Wilkes Land. Continue reading

June’s Arctic sea ice extent was 3d-lowest on record

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The northern hemisphere June snow cover extent has been far below average for 11 straight years.

Late-season snow cover also shrinking dramatically in northern hemisphere

Staff Report

FRISCO — Warm June temperatures across much of the Arctic may have set the stage for a big sea ice meltdown during the next few weeks, federal ice trackers said as they released their latest monthly update last week.

The Arctic sea ice extent for June 2015 was the third lowest on record, and June snow cover was the second-lowest, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center report, which measured an average sea ice extent of about 4.24 million square miles for the month, which is 355,200 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average. Continue reading

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