New data shows that the Arctic’s floating sea ice levels are the lowest ever recorded. Although we’ve only been monitoring the earth’s sea ice levels with satellite technology since the 1970s, some scientists believe this could be the lowest level ever. Meteorologists around the world are pointing to this data as yet another warning sign of the disastrous implications of global warming.
How Bad The New Data Really Is
This new satellite data comes from the U.S. National Snow & Ice Data Center located in Boulder, Colorado. On this center’s latest graph, which was officially published on January 14th, Arctic ice levels are documented from 1978 to the start of 2017. It is clear to spot the outlier in the 2016 line.
This red line dips well below the average during the months of October, November, and December. Most scientists, perhaps unsurprisingly, believe global warming played a key role in this year’s decline. To further prove their point, scientists also point to another graph that details the shrinking Arctic sea ice levels during the winter season.
Yet another graph released by the Snow & Ice Data Center shows how Antarctica’s sea ice area has been shrinking rapidly during the southern summer season. However, most meteorologists are not screaming in panic just yet over these Antarctica numbers. Although these numbers aren’t great, many climatologists believe 2016’s low Antarctica number was exacerbated by natural temperature variability.
John Turner, who works as a climatologist for the British Antarctic Survey, believes the main reason we see this low number for the 2016 Antarctica ice levels has to do with the weaker winds found around Antarctica. Turner told reporters that Antarctica’s climate is “extremely variable,” and that slight changes in winds “can have a huge effect on sea ice.”
Scientists Focus On Arctic Numbers
It’s the data surrounding the Arctic that has more climatologists worried. Since the Arctic’s ice levels have been in a steady decline for decades now, most meteorologists believe it must be due to the increased pressure from global warming. Warm air is entering into the Arctic, which causes the ice to melt more rapidly over time.
This would explain why many nations in both Europe and Asia experienced extremely low temperatures last year. As the warm air moves into the Arctic, it pushes all the cold air out into these continents.
Eric Holthaus, a popular meteorologist on Slate, took to social media after analyzing these Arctic numbers. Holthaus tweeted on January 14th,
There is, right now (as of Jan. 12th), the least area of sea ice on our planet that we’ve ever measured—probably the lowest in millennia.
Holthaus also posted graphs with both the current Arctic sea ice levels and 18,000-year reconstructions.
As the sea ice melts, scientists observe that the ocean gets exposed to more sunlight. Since lower ocean levels are darker than the ice above, the ocean naturally absorbs more heat from the sun. This effect has led some in the meteorological community to fear the melting of a huge ice sheet by Greenland.
Once this ice sheet melts, the waters will flow from the land into the ocean and raise sea levels. Today, Greenland’s ice sheet is 1.9 miles thick. If it melts, it could raise global sea levels by as much as 25 feet.
Future Predictions For Arctic Sea Levels
Although these numbers are sobering, many scientists believe the Arctic numbers will increase over the next few years. After a few years of increase, these numbers will most likely slide down even further. Ed Hawkins, a professor at the University of Reading, said that huge falls like this are often followed by a rebound.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the trend for Arctic ice levels will move upwards. All scientists urge world leaders, especially President Donald Trump, to put global warming policies on the top of their agendas while humanity still has time.
Image source: pexels.com/photo/snow-on-sea-photography-196789/