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 live along the coast.
At a time when the sea ice should be growing toward its maximum extent for the year, it’s shrinking instead—the area of the Bering Sea covered by ice is now 60 percent below its average from 1981-2010.
“[Bering sea ice] is in a league by itself at this point,” said Richard Thoman, the climate science and services manager for the National Weather Service Alaska region. “And looking at the weather over the next week, this value isn’t going to go up significantly. It’s going to go down.”