This Is Not Good: Sea Ice At Both Poles At Record Lows
Aviation Maintenance Tech 2 John Ferrari looks out of the back of a Coast Guard C-130 as he surveys the ice off of the coast of Barrow, Alaska, during a surveillance flight to the Arctic. (AP Photo/Al Grillo)
The trend towards a warmer planet continued in January, which was the third warmest on record since 1880. The month was behind the hottest ever in 2016 when an El Nino is thought to have boosted average global temperatures and the second highest in 2007. Most disturbing, though, were the record low levels of sea ice extent for January seen at both poles.
According to the monthly report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
"The average Arctic sea ice extent was 8.6 percent below the 1981-2010 average for January, and the average Antarctic sea ice extent was 22.8 percent below the 1981-2010 average. For both regions this was the smallest January sea ice extent since the satellite record began in 1979."
The pattern could extend beyond just January. We’ve also been seeing a heat wave in the Arctic this month as well. A week ago, temperatures at the North Pole were fifty degrees above average.
From a climate perspective, less sea ice is particularly bad because it can amplify a feedback loop that leads to more warming because the dark hues of the open ocean absorb more heat from the sun than the lighter shades of ice and snow that reflect more of that energy.
Also keep in mind that sea ice is different from continental ice and glaciers on Antarctica that have been in flux in recent years.
If you’re looking for silver linings, or snowy linings in this case, NOAA also reported above average snow cover in the northern hemisphere last month, so that’s something.
But the bottom line still seems to be more and more warmth. January’s average global temperature was 1.58 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. As if that weren’t enough, some forecasts say El Nino is ready for an encore already.
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