Rising Arctic temperatures have shrunk the ice covering the polar ocean this year to its second lowest in four decades, scientists said, another sign of how the climate crisis is rapidly transforming the region.
The satellites recorded this year’s sea ice minimum of 3.74 million square kilometers on Sept. 15, only the second time ice has been measured below 4 million square kilometers in 40 years of recording, researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center said. .
The record low level of 3.41 million square meters. Km, reached in 2012 after a cyclonic storm at the end of the season broke the remaining ice, is not much lower than what researchers observe today.
This year, the decline was particularly rapid between August 31 and September 5, thanks to pulses of warm air coming out of a heat wave in Siberia, according to NSIDC. The rate of ice loss during these six days was faster than in any other recorded year. Another team of scientists found in July that the Siberian heat wave would be almost impossible without man-made climate change.
As the Arctic sea ice disappears, it leaves open spots of dark water. These dark waters absorb solar radiation instead of reflecting it back from the atmosphere, a process that intensifies warming and helps explain why Arctic temperatures have risen more than twice as fast as the rest of the world in the past 30 years.
The loss of sea ice also threatens Arctic wildlife, from polar bears and seals to plankton and algae, said Tom Foreman, an expert on polar wildlife and an Arctic guide.
“The numbers we get in terms of sea ice reduction each year put us at great risk in terms of the level of concern we have, our concern for the stability of this environment,” Foreman said.
The same warming that opens up summer Arctic waters is eating away at the ice sheets that cover Arctic lands in Canada and Greenland. The faster these ice sheets melt in the surrounding ocean, the faster sea levels will rise around the world.
Given that a warmer Arctic could affect global weather patterns, Moon said the world should not wait for new record-breaking sea ice before taking action to limit climate change.
“We have to work very hard to make a difference in our pollutant emissions so that we don’t see so many records created in the future,” Moon said.