Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Arctic Sea Ice Growth Could Be Lowest On Record Again

[Think Progess.org] During wintertime in the northern hemisphere, temperatures drop and Arctic sea ice steadily grows before it starts melting in March. Yet every winter for the past several years, its growth appears to be slowing. This season is proving no different.
The latest reports available Monday show that the Arctic sea ice was at the lowest it’s ever been for this time of year since records began more than three decades ago, according to daily readings from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
“I have a feeling the February sea ice might be the lowest, continuing the record lowest in January,” said Julienne Stroeve, senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. “Air temperatures in the Arctic are warmer than normal … near the poles, for example, about 8 Celsius above normal.”
Sea ice is frozen water that grows and melts on the ocean surface. During its life cycle, sea ice becomes the solid base that wildlife and native communities need to survive. So diminishing sea ice is problematic for the Arctic ecology that includes everything from sea ice algae to migratory birds to marine mammals.
“The seals pup on the ice, so they need it to reproduce. Bears hunt on the ice. They hunt the seals. All these things are very tightly correlated with the extent of the sea ice,” said Raymond Sambrotto, associate research professor at Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in an interview with ThinkProgress.
But sea ice also helps moderate planetary climate with the albedo effect that reflects excessive sunlight back into space. In turn, dwindling sea ice creates large areas of open water that causes the Earth to absorb more of the sun’s solar energy, warming the ocean, the region, and thawing permafrost that holds harmful greenhouse gasses. Read More