Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sea ice approaching record low

Measurements of arctic sea ice this spring shows that many areas normally covered with ice at this time of the year are free of ice. Overall, the level of sea ice in the arctic region is below the baseline average. This is an indicator that the amount of sea ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean will reach a very low minimum this year. It is not conclusive at this point and things could change, but it is a disturbing warning. What is particularly disturbing is how so much area is ice free before we even get to the summer solstice. This is when the Sun is at its highest point in the sky and shines 24 hours a day above the Arctic Circle. Ice free areas of water are darker than ice covered areas and absorb a greater percentage of light shining down. A greater ice free area and more intense sunlight means the Arctic Ocean will be storing a great deal of heat. That heat will then be re-emitted later in the year as autumn begins. This will melt more ice and will cause changes in the weather patterns.

Will we see a record low amount of sea ice cover this year? It is very likely, but not a sure thing at this point. But, I think we should all be getting ready for another winter of extreme weather. The big question we need to be asking at this point is whether it will be extremely cold and snowy, or will it be extremely warm and dry? We have seen both of those in the last several years. This news about the sea ice makes me believe we will see it again this year.

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