Arctic sea ice levels continue to plummet. Researchers from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center tracking sea ice levels have found results that aren’t too surprising: Arctic sea ice extent is likely to break records for the lowest level this summer. Data from May revealed Arctic sea ice extent levels were “two to four weeks ahead” of the levels in 2012, the year that currently holds the dubious record.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the “average ice loss” every day in May was around 23,600 square miles. That’s far faster than the 1981-2010 average, which was 18,000 square miles daily. Another factor to take into account is the type of ice. “Multiyear ice” is ice that doesn’t melt and helps keep Arctic ocean temperatures cool. If that ice melts – and it is right now – next winter there will only be “first-year ice” which then melts easier than multiyear ice. If there’s not as much multiyear ice, Arctic ocean temperatures will likely warm. According to Gizmodo, the Arctic is warming up at “twice the rate” as other areas on earth.
Related: Arctic sea ice levels hit a new winter low – again
Are there any weather patterns that can help explain these crazy low numbers? The National Snow and Ice Data Center noted that winds from Alaska and northern Europe bringing “pulses of warm air” led to “hot spots” across the Arctic. Central Siberia was the only area where temperatures were lower than the average recorded between 1981-2010. Then there’s the “early retreat” in the Beaufort Sea of ice – and as more ice melts, the Arctic warms.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the numbers are “tentative” due to the “preliminary nature” of satellite data. However, they’re backed up by other sources, and it’s probable we’ll watch those numbers continue to plummet.
Images via Land Atmosphere Near-Real Time Capability for EOS (LANCE) System, NASA/GSFC; W. Meier, NASA; and National Snow and Ice Data Center