Arctic sea ice hits its lowest annual level, but not as low as in recent years

Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has reached its minimum extent after the summer melt season, and coverage is not as low as it has been in re...


Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has reached its minimum extent after the summer melt season, and coverage is not as low as it has been in recent years, scientists said Wednesday.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado said the low was most likely reached on Thursday and estimated the total extent of ice this year at 1.82 million square miles, or 4, 72 million square kilometers.

This is the 12th lowest total since the start of satellite detection of the Arctic in 1979 and about 25% higher than last year.

In a statement, Mark Serreze, the center’s director, described this year as a “reprieve” for the Arctic sea ice as colder and stormier conditions resulted in less melt. In particular, a persistent area of ​​cooler, low pressure air over the Beaufort Sea in northern Alaska slowed the rate of melt there.

The total is a reminder that the climate is naturally variable, and that variability can sometimes outweigh the effects of climate change. But the general downward trend in Arctic sea ice continues as the region warms more than twice as fast as other parts of the world. The record low was set in 2012, and this year’s results are about 40 percent higher than that.

But this year’s total is still nearly 600,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average low. And including this year, the past 15-year lows are the 15 lowest since 1979.

In addition, the relatively high minimum appears to have been achieved at the expense of thicker multi-year ice, which remains close to its lowest totals in satellite records.

Robbie Mallett, a sea ice researcher at University College London which is not affiliated with the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said there were two elements of natural variability that could affect sea ice.

One is the temperature. But the other, he said, was “the way the ice is set up every winter to melt.”

Last winter, Mr Mallett said, winds pushed a lot of thicker and older ice west from northern Greenland to Beaufort and a nearby sea, the Chukchi. This summer, that thicker ice thinned out, but most of it hasn’t melted completely.

“We filled the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea with this resilient multi-year ice, and it held up to the end,” he said. “And it was a positive result.”

But the thinning or complete melting of the thicker Arctic sea ice (now about a quarter of what it was four decades ago) is troubling.

The thinner the sea ice, the more sunlight it allows to pass into the water below, which can affect marine ecosystems and generate even more heat as more of the solar energy is absorbed and re-emitted. in the form of heat.

And because first-year ice, being thinner, is more likely to melt completely, as it replaces older ice, the region becomes more likely to melt overall. Many scientists expect the Arctic to become ice free in summer within a decade or two.

Mr Mallett said that when the thickness of the sea ice is measured by satellite radar this winter, “I suspect we will see, maybe not a record thickness, but a low average thickness for the whole of the world. ‘Arctic ocean “.

“There is definitely more than one diagnosis for Arctic health,” he said. “The expanse is only one, but the thickness and age are also declining.”

Mr Mallett, who closely monitors the extent of sea ice, said that with the multi-year ice flow in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, among other factors, he expected the total of this year is “a little higher” than the long term downtrend would suggest. “But it turns out it was a lot higher,” he said.

The westward blowing of older ice from northern Greenland last winter could be a continuation of a worrying trend that was noticed in 2020.

The area is normally so full of persistent, multi-year ice that it is known as the “last ice zone,Where, even if the ice disappears completely during arctic summers, it was thought that there would be enough ice left to provide refuge for polar bears and other ice-dependent wildlife.

But last year, a German research icebreaker on a year-long expedition encountered little thick ice on its trip to the region. And a study suggested that variable winds, coupled with the thinning and melting of the ice induced by the warming, had resulted in the blowing of much of the thicker ice in the region.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Arctic sea ice hits its lowest annual level, but not as low as in recent years
Arctic sea ice hits its lowest annual level, but not as low as in recent years
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