Arctic ‘shockingly’ hot: research

Arctic ‘shockingly’ hot: research

The warming process is self-reinforcing, say scientists. Source: Pixabay

The Arctic Ocean has “extraordinarily hot” surface and air temperatures, which are stopping ice forming and could lead to record lows of sea ice at the North Pole in 2017, according to Danish and US researchers.

Climate change was blamed but so was El Nino, which wreaked havoc with the world’s weather last year.

Satellite pictures and Arctic weather stations have shown air temperatures peaking 20 degrees Celsius higher than normal. In addition, sea temperatures were averaging nearly 4C higher than usual since September.

Rasmus Tonboe, a sea ice specialist at the Danish Meteorological Institute in Copenhagen, said: “Sea surface temperatures in the Kara and Barents seas are much warmer than usual. That makes it very difficult for sea ice to freeze.

“When we have large areas of open water, it also raises air temperatures, and it has been up to 10-15C warmer. Six months ago the sea ice was breaking up unusually early. This made more open water and allowed the sunlight to be absorbed, which is why the Arctic is warmer this year,” Tonboe said.

“What we are seeing is both surprising and alarming. This is faster than the models. It is alarming because it has consequences.”

Professor Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University agreed with his findings. “It’s been about 20C warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean, along with cold anomalies of about the same magnitude over north-central Asia. This is unprecedented for November.”

Francis blamed climate change: “It’s all expected. There is nothing but climate change that can cause these trends. This is all headed in the same direction and picking up speed.”

Temperatures were above freezing when minus 25C should be expected, she said. “These temperatures are literally off the charts for where they should be at this time of year. It is pretty shocking. The Arctic has been breaking records all year. It is exciting but also scary,” Francis said.

Francis said near-record low sea ice had contributed to the higher temperatures. “This helped make the jet stream wavier and allowed more heat and moisture to be driven into Arctic latitudes and perpetuate the warmth. It’s a vicious circle,” Francis said.

Sea ice has declined more than 30 per cent in the past 25 years and the research suggests with this month’s figures the lowest recorded. The US government’s National Snow and Ice Data Centre estimated that on average around 2 million square kilometres less ice has formed since September.


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