‘ Meltdown’ as Arctic’s ice goes at record rate
ARCTIC sea ice shrank to a nearrecord miminum this summer after unprecedented heatwaves, US experts revealed yesterday.
An area the size of three of America’s biggest states combined was lost compared to the average of just a few decades ago.
Scientists warned the Arctic really is “in meltdown”, posing doom to people who live there and wildlife such as polar bears and walrus.
But the disappearing ice also holds far wider implications for the planet as a whole in terms of rising sea levels and global warming.
The area of ice shrank to 1.44 million square miles, the lowest since 2012.
It is only the second time since satellite recordings began in 1979 that the sea ice area at the end of the summer has been below 1.54 million square miles.
The lost area was nearly a million square miles less than the average between the years 1981 and 2010, equal to Alaska, Texas and Montana all put together.
The figures, released by America’s National Snow and Ice Data Centre, come as the Arctic warms up twice as fast as the rest of the world.
The decline in sea ice, which rebuilds over autumn and winter, is likely to fuel the climate change thought to be causing it.
Snow and ice reflect solar radiation back out into the atmosphere. When they melt away the heat is instead absorbed by the sea, leading to further melting.
The ice melted particularly rapidly between August 31 and September 5 because of pulses of warm air from a Siberian heatwave attributed to man- made causes.
This year temperatures hit 100F in the Arctic for the first time.
Mark Serreze, director of NSIDC, said: “It’s been a crazy year up north with sea ice at a near- record low, 100F heatwaves in Siberia and massive forest fires.
“We are headed towards a seasonally ice- free Arctic Ocean and this is another nail in the coffin.”
The scale of the loss of ice was seen first- hand from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise by environmentalist Mya- Rose Craig, also known as “Birdgirl”.
Mya- Rose, 18, said: “I looked out at the sea ice edge and saw the second lowest recorded. This wakeup call is becoming deafening.”
US scientist Dr Twila Moon added: “It’s devastating to see yet another Arctic summer end with so little sea ice. The Arctic is a changed place.”
Ed Blockley of Britain’s Met Office said: “The Arctic is one of the most vulnerable regions on Earth to climate change and warming here will have consequences both for the region and the planet as a whole.”