Rapidly disintegrating Arctic sea ice leaves scientists ‘shocked’– means faster sea level rise, faster global warming, and more extreme weather

  • Rapidly disintegrating Arctic sea ice means faster sea level rise, faster global warming, and more extreme weather for us.

Joe Romm Read ThinkProgress article here    Read 2018 NOAA Arctic Report Card here

The annual Arctic Report Card from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is out, but it appears that humanity is flunking science badly.

As NOAA reports, “Arctic air temperatures for the past five years (2014-18) have exceeded all previous records since 1900.” And one stunning result of this is that 95 percent of the oldest and thickest Arctic sea ice has disintegrated in just three decades.

The Report Card makes clear that our failure to slow global warming has led to an all-but irreversible Arctic death spiral — which in turn is driving more extreme weather in this country, faster sea level rise everywhere, and more rapid disintegration of the carbon-rich permafrost, which in turn causes even faster global warming….

….NASA scientists who in March flew over the region north of Greenland — home to much of the Arctic’s oldest and thickest ice — were stunned by how much the thickest sea ice had been broken up into pieces as opposed to remaining a solid sheet. NASA cryo-scientist Nathan Kurtz, who has been on many such research flights, told the Washington Post, “I was just shocked by how different it was.”[Read more here]…

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Highlights from the NOAA report:

  • Surface air temperatures in the Arctic continued to warm at twice the rate relative to the rest of the globe. Arctic air temperatures for the past five years (2014-18) have exceeded all previous records since 1900.
  • In the terrestrial system, atmospheric warming continued to drive broad, long-term trends in declining terrestrial snow cover, melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and lake ice, increasing summertime Arctic river discharge, and the expansion and greening of Arctic tundra vegetation.
  • Despite increase of vegetation available for grazing, herd populations of caribou and wild reindeer across the Arctic tundra have declined by nearly 50% over the last two decades.
  • In 2018 Arctic sea ice remained younger, thinner, and covered less area than in the past. The 12 lowest extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last 12 years.
  • Pan-Arctic observations suggest a long-term decline in coastal landfast sea ice since measurements began in the 1970s, affecting this important platform for hunting, traveling, and coastal protection for local communities.
  • Spatial patterns of late summer sea surface temperatures are linked to regional variability in sea-ice retreat, regional air temperature, and advection of waters from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
  • In the Bering Sea region, ocean primary productivity levels in 2018 were sometimes 500% higher than normal levels and linked to a record low sea ice extent in the region for virtually the entire 2017/18 ice season.
  • Warming Arctic Ocean conditions are also coinciding with an expansion of harmful toxic algal blooms in the Arctic Ocean and threatening food sources.
  • Microplastic contamination is on the rise in the Arctic, posing a threat to seabirds and marine life that can ingest debris.