Arctic sea ice nears its minimum extent for 2016

Share
Chunks of sea ice, melt ponds and open water are all seen in this image captured at an altitude of 1,500 feet by the NASA's Digital Mapping System instrument during an Operation IceBridge flight over the Chukchi Sea on Saturday, July 16, 2016. (NASA/Goddard/Operation IceBridge)
Chunks of sea ice, melt ponds and open water are all seen in this image captured at an altitude of 1,500 feet by the NASA’s Digital Mapping System instrument during an Operation IceBridge flight over the Chukchi Sea on Saturday, July 16, 2016.
(NASA/Goddard/Operation IceBridge)
Average sea ice extent for August 2016 was 5.6 million square kilometers (2.16 million square miles), the fourth lowest August extent in the satellite record, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

This means sea ice in August has shrunk by 1.03 million square kilometres (more than twice the size of California) below the 1981 to 2010 average for the month, according to the NSIDC.

Arctic sea ice extent for August 2016 was 5.60 million square kilometers (2.16 million square miles). The magenta line shows the 1981 to 2010 median extent for that month. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole. (National Snow and Ice Data Center)
Arctic sea ice extent for August 2016 was 5.60 million square kilometers (2.16 million square miles). The magenta line shows the 1981 to 2010 median extent for that month. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole. (National Snow and Ice Data Center)

However, it seems sea ice is 890,000 square kilometres (344,000 square miles) above the record low for August that was set in 2012.

As of September 5, almost the entire Arctic Ocean had registered below average sea ice extent, except for a small area within the Laptev Sea.

Ice extent is especially low in the Beaufort Sea and in the East Siberian Sea.

While there was still considerable sea ice in the deeper northern portion of the Northwest Passage, the shallower southern channel – the so-called Amundsen route – was nearly ice free, the NSIDC said.

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this image of the Northwest Passage on August 9, 2016. A path of open water can be traced almost the entire distance from the Amundsen Gulf to Baffin Bay, encountering a scattering of broken ice just east of Victoria Island. (NASA Earth Observatory)
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this image of the Northwest Passage on August 9, 2016. A path of open water can be traced almost the entire distance from the Amundsen Gulf to Baffin Bay, encountering a scattering of broken ice just east of Victoria Island. (NASA Earth Observatory)

While the NSIDC says it is unlikely that a new record low will be reached this year, total sea ice extent is already lower than at the same time in 2007 and since the last week of August is currently tracking as the second lowest daily extent on record.

The average ice loss rate through August was 75,000 square kilometres per day (29,000 square miles), compared to the long-term 1981 to 2010 average of 57,300 square kilometres per day (22,100 square miles per day).

In August, the Arctic lost about 2.34 million square kilometres (904,000 square miles) of sea ice, an area larger than Greenland.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Inuit elders tell their experience of Arctic climate change, Radio Canada International

Finland:  Climate change brings new insect arrivals to Finland, Yle News

Greenland: New model predicts flow of Greenland’s glaciers, Alaska Dispatch News

Norway:  John Kerry to visit Arctic Norway to witness climate impacts, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia:  Ancient virus found in Arctic permafrost, Alaska Dispatch News

Sweden:  How will global warming affect the average Swede?, Radio Sweden

United States: NASA projects tracking changes in Alaska’s glaciers and Arctic atmosphere, Alaska Dispatch News

Share
Levon Sevunts

Levon Sevunts, Radio Canada International

Born and raised in Armenia, Levon started his journalistic career in 1990, covering wars and civil strife in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In 1992, after the government in Armenia shut down the TV program he was working for, Levon immigrated to Canada. He learned English and eventually went back to journalism, working first in print and then in broadcasting. Levon’s journalistic assignments have taken him from the High Arctic to Sahara and the killing fields of Darfur, from the streets of Montreal to the snow-capped mountaintops of Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. He says, “But best of all, I’ve been privileged to tell the stories of hundreds of people who’ve generously opened up their homes, refugee tents and their hearts to me.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *