Sea ice is shrinking
20 November, 2016
Arctic sea ice extent fell 0.16 million km² from November 16 to November 19, 2016, as illustrated by above ads.nipr.ac.jp/vishop image. This is happening at a time when there is little or no sunlight reaching the Arctic, as illustrated by the image below.
This recent fall in extent is partly due to strong winds, as illustrated by the image on the right.
Mostly, though, the lack of sea ice over the Arctic Ocean is caused by very warm water that is now arriving in the Arctic Ocean.
During the northern summer, water off the coast of North America warms up and gets pushed by theCoriolis force toward the Arctic Ocean. It takes several months for the water to travel along the Gulf Stream through the North Atlantic.
It has taken until now for the Arctic Ocean to bear the brunt of this heat.
As the image below shows, record sea surface anomalies showed up near Svalbard on October 31, 2016, when this heat first arrived in the Arctic.
On October 31, 2016, the Arctic Ocean was as warm as 17°C or 62.7°F (green circle near Svalbard), or 13.9°C or 25°F warmer than 1981-2011. This indicates how much warmer the water is beneath the surface, as it arrives in the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean.
Moreover, Antarctic sea ice is also falling, reflecting the warming of oceans globally. For some time now, Antarctic sea ice extent has been at a record low for the time of the year. On November 19, 2016, the combined extent of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice was 22.423 million km², as the image below shows.
This constitutes a fall in global sea ice extent of 1.085 million km² (418,900 square miles) since November 12, 2016, when global sea ice extent was 23.508 million km².
Let's look at those figures again. On Saturday November 12, 2016, global sea ice extent was 23.508 million km². On Saturday November 19, 2016, global sea ice extent was 22.423 million km². That's a fall of more than one million km² in one week.
By comparison, that's more than the combined size of ten European nations (such as Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and Ireland).
Or, it's more than the combined size of seventeen States of the United States (such as Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Maine, South Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island).
Globally, this one-week fall in sea ice extent means there now is an additional warming of some 0.68 W/m². By comparison, the warming impact relative to the year 1750 of all carbon dioxide emitted by people was 1.68 W/m² in the most recent IPCC assessment report (AR5).
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan.