U.S. scientist reported that sea ice levels in the Arctic Ocean hit a record low for the winter season. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center from the University of Colorado in Boulder, this year’s maximum was 14.5 million sq. km.
This is the lowest value since 1979 when satellite records debuted. According to a recent scientific paper, the Arctic sea ice had thinned between 1975 and 2012 by 65 %. And this phenomenon will have consequences.
Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and Environment at the London School of Economics explained:
“The gradual disappearance of ice at the poles is having profound consequences for people, animals and plants in the polar regions, as well as around the world, through sea level rise.”
The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reported that winter sea ice reached its maximum values this year on February 25 and as spring started setting in, the ice slowly begun to melt.
Measurements were done at the end of February. Results showed that compared to the values obtained in 2001, there is now 130,000 sq. km less ice. Scientists believe one of the factors that contributed to the decreased sea ice is the unusually warm temperatures recorded throughout February in various regions of Alaska and Russia.
Average data will soon be provided for March as NSIDC scientist Walt Meier explained:
“The monthly value smoothens out these weather effects and so it is a better reflection of climate effects.”
Every winter the Arctic Ocean freezes, followed by a steady melting process that takes place every summer. This phenomenon will continue no matter what climate changes occur. Even if the Arctic remains “one of the fastest-warming regions of the world”, it will always go through a freezing period during the winter.
But what are the consequences of such a low level of winter ice?
If the phenomenon continues, it means that at one point, summer in these regions will be clear of ice, meaning a possibility of opening new shipping lanes. But there are also downsides.
Alexander Shestakov, director of the WWF Global Arctic Program explains that these low values are concerning:
“Low sea ice can create a series of reactions that further threaten the Arctic and the rest of the globe.”
Image Source: The Telegraph