The summer sea ice in the Arctic continues to melt at an alarming pace. It now stands at the second lowest point since records began (just above the exceptional melt of 2007). What is more, the rate of melt at this point of the decline season is greater than for any other year since the satellite monitoring record began, and because of the relatively cold northern winter of 2007-2008, the total area of ice that has been lost to melt this year also looks set to break new ground (or is that new ocean?). For the second year running, the Northwest Passage is open to shipping.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, US, has just posted an update of the current situation, which you can read here. There are also graphs and maps at this site which give you a fuller picture of the situation and which complement other useful visuals available at Cryosphere Today. But a particularly interesting comparison has been prepared, and is regularly updated, by Phillip Sutton of GreenLEAP (who is also co-author of the new book Climate Code Red). That is the graphic given at the top of this post. This visual aid is unique in that it compares 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 vs the 1979-2000 median (the standard graphic only compares 2007 and 2008 to the median). To my mind’s eye, this gives a fuller – starker – picture of just how precipitous the decline in Arctic summer sea ice now is. The reason for the unusual pattern of fast late melt this year is complex, but the underlying cause is clear enough – look at the inset picture of the age of the sea ice. It shows the Arctic sea ice age in February 2008 compared to the average for 1985-2000 (NASA). Dark blue is old, thick ice, light blue is young, thin ice, vulnerable to melting. In the 1980s more than 20 percent of the sea ice was older than six years – that figure has fallen to a mere 6 percent, with a massive concomitant loss of total ice volume.
Gareth Renowden of Hot Topic also makes a disturbing point regarding Arctic methane, and Joe Romm of Climate Progress shows how the denialosphere can spin any situation to suit their preconceived position. Also, I wonder why Andrew Bolt has now gone quiet over this particular issue, given the way he was triumphantly proclaiming this as a non-event just a few months ago?
I guess the Brave New Climate of tipping points is just rather too inconvenient and difficult to cherry pick…
UPDATE: NSIDC have added a new update and a plot which also shows 2005 tracking and how 2008 diverged:
Filed under: Future