We’re witnessing the fastest decline in Arctic sea ice in at least 1,500 years

We’re witnessing the fastest decline in Arctic sea ice in at least 1,500 years

SOURCE: Vox and Inside Climate News DATE: February 17, 2018 SNIP: Vox: The Arctic Ocean once froze reliably every year. Those days are over. Arctic sea ice extent has been measured by satellites since the 1970s. And scientists can sample ice cores, permafrost records, and tree rings to make some assumptions about the sea ice extent going back 1,500 years. And when you put that all on a chart, well, it looks a little scary. “The Arctic is going through the most unprecedented transition in human history,” Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic research program, said at a press conference. “This year’s observations confirm that the Arctic shows no signs of returning to the reliably frozen state it was in just a decade ago.” The report, which you can read in full here, compiles trends that scientists have been seeing for years. The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. And 2017 saw a new record low for the maximum sea ice extent (i.e., how much of the Arctic ocean freezes in the coldest depths of winter). That huge drop-off at the end? That’s “the largest magnitude decline in sea ice, and the greatest sustained rate in sea ice decline in that 1,500-year record,” said Emily Osborne, the NOAA scientist who compiled the data for the chart. Inside Climate News: In just eight days in mid-February, nearly a third of the sea ice covering the Bering Sea off Alaska’s west coast disappeared. That kind of ice loss and the changing climate as the planet warms is affecting the lives of the people who...
First ship crosses Arctic in winter without an icebreaker as global warming causes ice sheets to melt

First ship crosses Arctic in winter without an icebreaker as global warming causes ice sheets to melt

SOURCE: The Independent DATE: February 14, 2018 SNIP: A ship has made a winter crossing of the Arctic without an icebreaker for the first time as global warming causes the region’s ice sheets to melt. The tanker, containing liquefied natural gas, is the first commercial vessel to make such a crossing alone during the winter months. The voyage is a significant moment in the story of climate change in the Arctic and will be seized on by those with concerns about thinning polar ice and its implications for the environment. As global warming leads to melting Arctic ice, areas of the northern oceans are becoming accessible to vessels for the first time. Shipping companies have been investing in ships that are able to break through thinning polar ice, as the northern sea route is considerably shorter for many trade links between Europe and Asia. [E]nvironmentalists have noted the irony in the rapidly warming Arctic seas being used as a highway for fossil fuel transport. “Inevitably, this has caused massive changes, with most of the Arctic ice having already disappeared. And so now, ironically, we can deliver fossil fuels more quickly. It’s like a heavy smoker using his tracheotomy to smoke two cigarettes at once,” said Sarah North, senior oil strategist for Greenpeace...
Sea ice tracking low in both hemispheres

Sea ice tracking low in both hemispheres

SOURCE: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) DATE: February 6, 2018 SNIP: January of 2018 began and ended with satellite-era record lows in Arctic sea ice extent, resulting in a new record low for the month. Combined with low ice extent in the Antarctic, global sea ice extent is also at a record low. The linear rate of decline for January is 47,700 square kilometers (18,400 square miles) per year, or 3.3 percent per...
Sea ice algae blooms in the dark

Sea ice algae blooms in the dark

SOURCE: AAAS EurekAlert DATE: February 6, 2018 SNIP: Researchers from Aarhus University have measured a new world record: Small ice algae on the underside of the Arctic sea ice live and grow at a light level corresponding to only 0.02% of the light at the surface of the ice. Algae are the primary component of the Arctic food web and produce food far earlier in the year than previously thought. The general view has been that ice algae do not obtain sufficient light for growth when they are covered by a more than 30-50 cm deep cover of snow and ice. The new measurements completely change that view and show that ice algae may play an important role much earlier in the spring in the Arctic than hitherto assumed. Temperatures are rising in the Arctic. When the snow on top of the ice gets warmer, the algae residing on the underside of the ice receive more light. This may significantly impact the growth of the algae and the extent of the ‘spring bloom’. This new knowledge must be considered in the puzzle of how the Arctic will respond to a warmer...
The Arctic has inversions just like Utah, and they could be making climate change worse

The Arctic has inversions just like Utah, and they could be making climate change worse

SOURCE: The Salt Lake Tribune DATE: February 5, 2018 SNIP: The atmosphere over the Arctic is highly sensitive to air pollution and inversions much like Utah’s, scientists have discovered in a study that could help them understand why global warming is so much worse in one of the coldest places on Earth. Tiny particulate pollution blowing north from population centers in Asia and Europe appears to alter cloud formation over the Arctic region, said University of Utah professor of atmospheric sciences Tim Garrett, co-author of the study published earlier this month in Geophysical Research Letters. The pollutants become trapped over the Arctic when warm air flows over the region’s icy surface, in much the same way winter inversions set up over the Wasatch Front, accumulating a combination of moisture and air pollution that can mix into a soupy smog. Arctic clouds form whether or not pollution is present, Garrett said, but the pollution makes it “a more effective blanket” by creating clouds made of smaller droplets of water than most naturally forming clouds. These pollution-spurred clouds trap even more heat than usual, possibly contributing to rising temperatures in the Arctic. What surprised Garrett and colleagues in their research, he said, was the degree to which pollution appeared to affect the Arctic clouds. Using satellite imagery and air-quality data to track cloud patterns and pollution, Garrett and others found the Arctic clouds were two to eight times more sensitive to the presence of pollution than previous studies...