Climate: Arctic sea ice melt slows slightly in July

Experts say record low now unlikely

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Summer sea ice off the east coast of Greenland. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Cool and stormy weather in the Arctic during July slowed the rate of sea ice loss to just below average for the month,  making it less likely sea ice extent will dwindle to a record low, according to the latest update from the National Ice and Snow Data Center. But it all depends on conditions the next few months.

For the month, sea ice extent averaged 2.14 million square miles, the third-lowest for July since satellite records started in 1979. It was only the second month of 2016 that didn’t end with a record-low extent, according to the NSIDC. The sea ice extent in July was 73,000 square miles above the previous record low 637,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average. Through 2016, the rate of decline for the month of July is 28,070 square miles per year, about 7.3 percent per decade.

The rate of ice loss during July 2016 was slightly below average at 32,400 square miles per day. Warm conditions persisted along the northernmost coasts of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, but the thick sea ice that is typical of this region is unlikely to melt out. But the ice researchers said that, overall, conditions in the Arctic were marked by a large area of below-average pressure centered over the Laptev Sea that cooled temperatures anywhere from 2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit below average for that region.

The July pattern started in June with a big change in the large-scale circulation related to development of a high pressure system south of Alaska. That changed the direction of sea ice drift from closckwise (which tends to drive ice out of the Arctic Ocean) to counterclockwise in the Laptev Sea, which disperses the ice, leading to a larger extent.

Visit the NSIDC online for the full July report: https://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2016/08/a-cool-and-stormy-arctic-in-july/.

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