Extraordinary Temp Records Shows Up In The Polar Regions
The recently recorded extraordinarily warm temperatures continue in the Arctic - temperatures tens of degrees Fahrenheit above normal for this time of year in some locations - Arctic sea ice, a key indicator of the overall state of this system, seems to be responding in kind.
It is kind of unbelievable: On Nov. 19, the extent of Arctic sea ice was nearly 1 million square kilometers lower (8.633 million vs 9.504 million) than it was on that date during the prior record low year of 2012, according to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. On Nov. 20, the gap widened further, with 8.625 million square kilometers in 2016 versus 9.632 million in 2012.
This is happening in a time of year when ice is supposed to be spreading across the polar ocean - yet instead, it is flat or even declining a little lately.
"I think that it's fair to say that the very slow ice growth is a response to the extreme warmth (still ongoing as of today)," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, by email on Sunday.
It may be time for a refresher on why this matters and why it is so consistent with climate change research going back many decades. The fear (and it's not just a fear any longer, really) is that there is something called a "feedback" in the Arctic climate system.
As the climate warms, there should be less sea ice covering the Arctic ocean - and indeed, we've seen great declines. But as sea ice falls, the darker ocean should also absorb more energy from sunlight in the summer, energy that the lighter colored ice would have reflected away. This heat, contained in the ocean, would also prevent sea ice formation.
This is a warning and great indication that climate change is really a matter, the world must pay attention for.