Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Climate change: Still melting

Its the dead of winter in the Arctic. And the ice cap is still melting:

Both the Arctic and Antarctic experienced record lows in sea ice extent in November, with scientists astonished to see Arctic ice actually retreating at a time when the region enters the cold darkness of winter.

Warm temperatures and winds drove record declines in sea ice at both polar regions in November compared to the 38-year satellite record of ice extent for the month. Arctic sea ice extent averaged 9.08m sq km (3.51m sq miles) for November, which is 1.95m sq km (or 753,000 sq miles) below the long-term average from 1981 to 2010 for the month.

Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said that Arctic sea ice extent dipped for a short time in mid-November, an “almost unprecedented” event. Sea ice shrank by around 50,000 sq km (19,300 sq miles) in this period, mainly in the Barents Sea.

The graph is horrifying - record lows well below the average. And while it may manage to claw its way back to the sort of territory we've been seeing for the last five years, there will be a knock-on effect on next year's summer melt. It looks like the Arctic ice cap simply isn't going to be with us for much longer.

...which in turn is going to create positive feedback within the climate system, with more heating as dark water replaces reflective ice. This isn't good. And unless major polluters cut emissions, it will get worse.