Climate Change Conference

Arctic, record hot temperatures with peaks of 20 degrees above average

Alarming data come from the Arctic Circle. Abnormal temperatures and near-record low sea ice coverage. Experts warn: “Lost ice can’t recover”.

There should be more ice, a lot more ice. And temperatures should be below zero degrees Celsius. But this isn’t the case. According to researchers from the Danish Meteorological Institute and Rutgers University, who monitor temperatures and sea ice cover above the 80th parallel, temperatures in the Arctic are only -5°C, when they should be -25°C.

In some areas of the Polar Circle recorded air temperatures are 20°C warmer than normal, while sea temperatures are nearly 4°C higher than usual. “In October and November Arctic sea ice was at the lowest extent ever recorded”, says Elisa Palazzi, researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Science and Climate (ISAC) of the Italian Research Council (CNR). “This is a problem because such a situation makes it difficult for new ice to form. And the ice that forms is thinner and thinner”.

arctic sea ice extent
Sea ice extent over the years

Record-low ice extent

Scientists are surprised by these anomalies that reinforce the negative trend of the last few years. Data collected in October by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) indicates that Arctic sea ice extent at the end of September stood at another low, 4.72 million square kilometres. It has declined at a rate of 13.3 per cent every ten years. “The reduction of sea ice cover influences how much sunlight is absorbed, which heats up sea waters”, Palazzi added. “It is a well-known feedback mechanism, a self-feeding cycle. The less ice there is, the larger the potential warming influence. That’s why the Arctic Pole is a sentinel of climate change”.


The Arctic is suffering

According to Nasa, the Arctic Ocean should reach its maximum yearly extent between February and April but on 24 March 2016 it “peaked at 14.52 million square kilometers, a new record low winter maximum extent in the satellite record that started in 1979”. Nasa points out that in the last 13 years growing sea ice extent lows have been recorded constantly. “It is an exceptional phenomenon that follows an expected trend. In the past 25 years sea ice lost 30 per cent of its extent”.

arctic sea ice polar bear
There are many animal species that suffer from shrinking ice in the Arctic Pole. One of the most iconic is the polar bear, which finds it difficult to hunt for food for itself and its babies so much so it sometimes has to eat vegetables and algae © Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

“This is an alarming phenomenon”, the CNR researcher said. “If we consider the most optimistic climate models, we could expect the trend to reach a plateau. But the ice lost up to this point can’t be recovered”. The warning signals from the North of the planet are increasingly alarming.

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