Jul 6, 2017

The Arctic Has Been Crazy Warm All Year. This Is What It Means for Sea Ice

Arctic
by
Brian Kahn
,
Climate Central
Total Arctic sea ice thickness and its departure from normal for June. Image: Zack Labe
Total Arctic sea ice thickness and its departure from normal for June. Image: Zack Labe

Melt season has begun in earnest in the Arctic. Scientists will spend the next few months watching sea ice turn into open water until the ice pack hits its nadir in early fall. The vagaries of the weather and ocean currents will play a major role in determining where this year’s Arctic sea ice minimum ranks. But the steady drumbeat of climate change ensures that it will likely be among the lowest on record.

New data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center show that sea ice extent was at its sixth-lowest mark for June. Sea ice was missing from 348,000 square miles of the Arctic Ocean, an area about three times the size of Arizona.

After the string of record- or near-record low months late last year and early this year, the sixth-lowest extent might sound like an improvement. It’s not. As of July 2, sea ice extent was on par with 2012, a year that went on to set the mark for lowest Arctic sea ice minimum on record. That year, a major storm in August helped churn the ocean and smash ice to smithereens.