SOURCE: Washington Post
DATE: June 14, 2019
SNIP: Ice is melting in unprecedented ways as summer approaches in the Arctic. In recent days, observations have revealed a record-challenging melt event over the Greenland ice sheet, while the extent of ice over the Arctic Ocean has never been this low in mid-June during the age of weather satellites.
Greenland saw temperatures soar up to 40 degrees above normal Wednesday, while open water exists in places north of Alaska where it seldom, if ever, has in recent times.
It’s “another series of extreme events consistent with the long-term trend of a warming, changing Arctic,” said Zachary Labe, a climate researcher at the University of California at Irvine.
And the abnormal warmth and melting of ice in the Arctic may be messing with our weather.
Weather satellites have monitored sea ice in the Arctic since 1979, and the current ice coverage is the lowest on record for mid-June.
The ice extent has been especially depleted in the part of the Arctic Ocean adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. “It’s pretty remarkable how much open water is in that area,” Labe said.
Labe explained high pressure over the Arctic has helped to pull sea ice way from the northern Alaska coast.
Sea ice loss over the Chukchi and Beaufort seas along Alaska’s northern coast has been “unprecedented” according to Rick Thoman, a climatologist based in Fairbanks.
Labe said there’s sufficient open water that you could sail all the way from the Bering Strait into a narrow opening just north of Utqiagvik, Alaska’s northernmost city, clear into the Beaufort Sea. “It’s very unusual for open water this early in this location,” he said.
The extreme conditions in the Arctic, which have resulted in these record-challenging melt events, have far-reaching implications. There is a saying often repeated by Arctic researchers: “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.”
The bulging zones of high pressure in the Arctic, which have facilitated the unusual warmth and intensified melting, are displacing the cold air normally contained in that region into the mid-latitudes — like a refrigerator door left open. Much of the central and eastern United States have seen lower-than-normal temperatures in the past week.
“The jet stream this week was one of the craziest I’ve ever seen!” Jennifer Francis, one of the leading researchers who has published studies connecting Arctic change and mid-latitude weather.