This year has marked record breaking achievements for the Arctic ocean, albeit alarming ones. The Arctic Ocean is experiencing high air temperatures, resulting in significant ice loss. Weather stations have recorded air temperatures of up to 20C higher than what was to be expected for this time of the year. Temperatures of just above freezing have been recorded, in stark contrast to what is expected - -25C. Consequently, sea temperatures are approximately 4C higher than usual.
These unusually warm sea and air temperatures are stopping the usual ice from forming; marking a worrying advancement of global warming. The US Government’s National Snow and Ice Data Center, has reported around 2m sq. km less ice has formed since September than the average expected.
Ice formation is sensitive to air and sea temperatures. The delay in ice formation this year will mean that the ice is much thinner than it should be. The high pressure over the Kara Sea has meant strong winds bringing warm air into the Arctic latitudes. Higher sea surface temperatures in the Kara and Barents seas has slowed down the sea ice freezing process. Consequently, large areas of open water raise air temperatures, causing the sea ice to break up unusually early. The open water allows sunlight to be absorbed, perpetuating the increasing sea temperatures, resulting in a vicious cycle. This is of significance for the future as the following year’s ice formation depends on this year.
Undeniably, it is usual for Antarctica to lose sea ice, however, the rates at which this is occurring this year is worrying and will have severe consequences for the climate in years to come.