I’m sure that virtually everyone who reads this blog is quite aware of what’s happened recently (and continues to happen) with Arctic ice. If you need a quick refresher, however…
A few thoughts on all this no-longer-there ice…
- If you’re interested in Arctic ice — and you bloody well should be — then you simply must read Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice blog.
- The fact that we’ve seen such a dramatic drop in sea ice extent, area, and volume — with the extent approximately five standard deviations below the 1979-2000 average and well below the level during the previous low record year (2007) — isn’t really a surprise. Arctic ice has been declining steadily for decades, with a noted drop in thicker multi-year ice. The only questions were when we would have the first big plunge, and what exactly would trigger it. As Neven has documented, this year we didn’t see weather conditions particularly conducive to ice loss, but we did get the infamous “Arctic cyclone” that physically stirred things up and allowed a lot of ice to melt quicker. While no one should expect this to happen every year, it’s probably accurate to say that with a high portion of thinner, single-year ice up north, the stage will be set for such a plunge every year.
- Look at the line in the first graph for the current year’s sea ice. Notice how it’s been virtually straight for over two weeks? It’s highly likely to drop quite a bit more before it bottoms out around the typical mid-September time frame. So we’re not just going to break the old record (which has happened already, obviously), we’re going to blow right by it. I won’t even attempt to guess what the new record will be, but it will be really low by historical standards.
- Arctic ice loss is anything but an academic issue, of course. First, there is the little matter of Arctic amplification, a.k.a. albedo flip. Less ice = darker open water which absorbs more heat from sunlight. It’s third-grade science spread across millions of square miles. Second, opening up the Arctic means our fossil fuel friends will be racing to get at previously unreachable oil and natural gas deposits. More carbon for everyone!
- As always, the question of whether this event, a new record low in Arctic sea ice, will affect the public perception of the climate change issue leaps to mind. At least it leaps to my mind, as well as those of some of my correspondents. In fact, I’ve had several somewhat heated (no pun intended) discussions in e-mail in recent days and weeks with climate cognoscenti who are convinced that This Time Will Be Different! The media will extract their heads from their hindquarters! The public will not just pay attention, but (at long last) they’ll Get It And Take Action! My view is that this is wildly optimistic. The media will barely cover it, the public will largely overlook it, and (yet again) Nothing Will Change.
T-minus 196 days.