“Absurdly Warm” Arctic May Set New Low Ice Record
February 29, 2016
Rapidly disappearing Arctic sea ice is about to set a new record after an “absurdly warm” winter at the top of the world. For the second year running, it will have grown to cover less of the Arctic Ocean than ever before.
The revelation comes as scientists are increasingly worried that the heating of the region could escalate out of control, as growing numbers of “feedback mechanisms” – which reinforce and accelerate the process – are being discovered.
Most attention on the melting sea ice so far has been focused on the increasingly low minimum levels it reaches each September. Its nine smallest-ever extents have all occurred in the last nine years, with the record being reached in 2012, when it covered only 3.41 million square kilometres – 44 per cent less than the average of the previous three decades, and a full 16 per cent lower than the previous record, in 2007.
But the amount by which the ice recovers each winter, peaking at the end of February and the beginning of March, though little publicised, is at least as important. Last year it reached only 14.54 million sq km on 25 February, its peak day – the lowest ever. Exactly a year later, at the end of last week, it was just 14.27 million sq km, a fall of 270,000 sq km.
Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado (NSIDC) – the world’s foremost authority on the issue – are not quite ready to proclaim a new record, as the ice may yet spread further over the next days. But, with another week of unseasonably warm weather forecast for the region, they privately believe it is almost certain.