Even though things are just heating up in the Northern Hemisphere, many of us have already heard about the record-breaking hot temperatures in the Arctic. Now, National Snow and Ice Data Center research scientist Andrew Slater has translated those temperature statistics into visual form with four telling graphs. Based on these diagrams, one meteorologist tweeted that Arctic conditions are as “literally off the charts.”
To create the charts, Slater pulled in data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR), and the Climate Forecast System Version 2 (CFSv2). His graphs show the Arctic has not had as many days below the freezing point of 0 degrees Celsius as it typically does. In fact, since we began keeping track in 1980, this year marks the most days we’ve recorded above freezing temperatures in the Arctic.
Days higher than freezing is not the only record shattered in the Arctic this year. Sea ice levels were the lowest since 1979. Just this month NOAA announced at Alaska’s Barrow Observatory they’d recorded “the earliest snowmelt date in 73 years of record-keeping, beating the previous mark set in 2002 by a full 10 days.” According to NOAA, usually Barrow Observatory is “one of the last places in the United States to lose snow cover.”
High temperatures, early snowmelts, and low sea ice levels create a dangerous combination for Arctic wildlife. According to NOAA, polar bears and walruses have to adjust to their changing environment. Adorable black guillemont birds may not be able to find as many fish, meaning not as many of their chicks will survive.
NOAA reported between January and April of this year, temperatures reached “an incredible 11 degrees above normal.” Many predict the Arctic will continue to break temperature records in the summer. It’s a vicious cycle: melting ice means the Arctic takes in more heat and melts more rapidly.