Environment

Hottest half-year on record sinks Arctic ice to new lows

Hottest half-year on record si...
An image of Arctic sea ice captured from 1,500 feet during an Operation IceBridge mission
An image of Arctic sea ice captured from 1,500 feet during an Operation IceBridge mission
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An image of Arctic sea ice captured from 1,500 feet during an Operation IceBridge mission
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An image of Arctic sea ice captured from 1,500 feet during an Operation IceBridge mission
A pool of melt water over Arctic sea ice on July 14, 2016
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A pool of melt water over Arctic sea ice on July 14, 2016
Temperatures are rising across the globe, but scientists say that the warmth in the Arctic of late has been especially profound
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Temperatures are rising across the globe, but scientists say that the warmth in the Arctic of late has been especially profound

Last month, scientists reported an earlier-than-normal annual melting of Arctic sea ice, and now NASA researchers taking further stock of the situation are providing a clearer picture of how fast it is shrinking and the reasons why. As Earth sweats through its hottest six-month period on record, analysis of the same timeframe has revealed record-breaking shrinking of Arctic sea ice, with total coverage at the height of the melting season now 40 percent less than in the late 1970s.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has today revealed data showing 2016 had the hottest June on record, topping last year's record-breaking June by 0.04° F (0.02° C) and the 20th century average by 1.62° F (0.9° C). June marked the 14th consecutive month such a title has been claimed and makes January-June of 2016 the planet's hottest half-year period on record.

"While the El Niño event in the tropical Pacific this (Northern Hemisphere) winter gave a boost to global temperatures from October onwards, it is the underlying trend which is producing these record numbers," says Gavin Schmidt, director at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Temperatures are rising across the globe, but scientists say that the warmth in the Arctic of late has been especially profound
Temperatures are rising across the globe, but scientists say that the warmth in the Arctic of late has been especially profound

Temperatures are rising across the globe, but scientists say that the warmth in the Arctic has been especially profound, as they report exceptionally low snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and premature seasonal melting of sea ice along with the Greenland ice sheet.

"It has been a record year so far for global temperatures, but the record high temperatures in the Arctic over the past six months have been even more extreme," says Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "This warmth as well as unusual weather patterns have led to the record low sea ice extents so far this year."

Of the first six months of 2016, five of those saw the lowest levels of Arctic sea ice for those respective months since records began in 1979. March was the exception, but logged the second smallest ice coverage for that particular month. Arctic sea ice is generally at its lowest in September, and the team says that levels at this point in the cycle have been declining by 13.4 percent per decade.

NASA has been conducting flyovers of the Arctic sea ice for eight years through Operation IceBridge, a mission designed to collect data on changes in sea ice shape and size. But this year the scientists have a slightly different focus: the pools of water known as melt pond that form on the ice in spring and summer.

Recent research has shown these gatherings of melted ice can serve as a good predictor of the seasonal low-points as they reduce the ability of the sea ice to reflect solar radiation, which has the effect of accelerating overall shrinkage. By mapping how many there are and how big and deep they go, NASA hopes to learn more about how they might be helping shape the future of the region.

"Although there have been previous airborne campaigns in the Arctic, no one has ever mapped the large-scale depth of melt ponds on sea ice using remote sensing data," says Nathan Kurtz, IceBridge's project scientist and a sea ice researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "The information we'll collect is going to show how much water is retained in melt ponds and what kind of topography is needed on the sea ice to constrain them, which will help improve melt pond models."

The video below gives an overview of the recent climate and sea ice trends.

Source: NASA

NASA Sees Temperatures Rise and Sea Ice Shrink - Climate Trends 2016

11 comments
Anne Ominous
NASA has a tendency to put warm spin on things. If you look at the chart of sea ice extent from SNIDC, you can see that right now arctic ice area is greater than it was in 2012. http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_stddev_timeseries.png
Robert in Vancouver
There is more ice at the south pole and it is thicker than ever before. If there was global warming, that wouldn't be the case. And if there was global warming, sea levels would be high and there would be coastal flooding worldwide. But there is no coastal flooding, and sea levels are the same as 10, 40, or 100 years years ago. I live right beside the Pacific Ocean and have not seen any rise in sea levels or tide marks over the past 26 years. None.
ljaques
Let's see, how can we make it seem a lot worse than it is? Let's start by taking 136 years of data and paring it down to a 6-month period. Oh, and this is after removing most of the cooler monitoring stations. And after "adjusting" for whatever else they want to adjust for so everything seems worse than it is. They weave their data around El Nino fluctuations so they look worse in comparison. Notice how they always show summer ice content. That's when it's at its lowest during any year. I'm really surprised that there aren't any dead polar bears floating in that picture, y'know, to show the disastrousness of it all. It's just the same old crap from Hansen's old followers. - Notice that the period between 2000 and 2016 seems to be pretty flat. This is when they changed the alarmist term from "Global Warming" to Climate Change. Y'know, since it _wasn't_ warming for a decade. - Cmon, boys and girls. It's time to put the SCIENCE back into science, showing the real data, without all that alarmist crap and skewed, cherry-picked stuff. NEUTRALITY, please. Just the Facts, Maam.
Bernie Koppenhofer
Climate change deniers, (The Republican Party and Republican Congressmen) had better wake up and start mitigating the effects of climate change or there is going to be loss of life that could have been prevented.
Tman47
You may wish to learn about GeoEngineering. It has been going on for sometime... https://ow127.infusionsoft.com/app/linkClick/12869/9127888f1a25eaf0/2894871/85d7922e52488eda
GlassHalfEmpty
@Anne Ominous, you came here and ruined the sensation with your pesky facts.
Pat Pending
Not wishing to be controversial but is there any conclusive proof that this is anything other than part of a natural cycle?
habakak
@Anne....that means nothing, it's one year. Not that I care. The climate has always changed. The Dutch has lived below sea level for centuries. We will adapt. And even before then, the world will have moved to clean energy (that process has begun and will only gain momentum). In 25 years people won't talk about climate change anymore and the kids born around that time will never understand what people of today fretted about. Just like kids born after 1991 don't understand the Cold War or kids born after 1950 didn't worry about the Depression, etc. Countless examples throughout history of people obsessing about things that never occurred or had an impact beyond a certain point.
djmc
Yet no mention of the Antarctic ice being currently much larger than usual.
southerncom
Regarding Anne Ominous' comment: The natural variability of sea ice is so large that comparing two specific years is meaningless. The important information is in the long term trend, which as the article notes is a decline of more than 13% per decade. This trend is consistent with all of the other global warming indicators such as average surface temperature, ocean temperature, borehole temperatures, snowpack melt dates and species migration.