At the midway point of the Arctic summer melt season, researchers who watch ice conditions have noticed a change in what has become the annual “The ice is all melting” narrative.
A change for the worse, that is: the ice is melting faster.
According to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) based in Colorado, the ice melted faster last month than in any prior June since modern record-keeping began three decades ago, The Vancouver Sun reports.
The accelerated melting rate has the northern ice pack on track to shrink below the level recorded in the summer of 2007, a disastrous year in which sea ice extent shrank far below the average yearly loss and became emblematic of the potential catastrophe of climate change.
The NSIDC puts the melting in plain terms:
Average June ice extent was the lowest in the satellite data record, from 1979 to 2010. Arctic air temperatures were higher than normal, and Arctic sea ice continued to decline at a fast pace. June saw the return of the Arctic dipole anomaly, an atmospheric pressure pattern that contributed to the record sea ice loss in 2007.
The rapid rate of the melting has scientists concerned. An Arctic that becomes ice-free in the summer, as many predict, will lead to warming northern seas and much wider climate and coastline impacts, along with alterations in weather patterns.
At the same time, a massive Greenlandic glacier lost a huge piece over July 6 and 7, as changes in the ice there mounted, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Greenland’s immense ice sheet, some two miles thick in the center and containing a significant portion of the world’s fresh water, sheds much of its mass through fast-flowing glaciers.
Scientists said warming conditions could be a factor in the recent breakup, which augments existing evidence that the sheet itself is melting quicker than originally predicted.
This particular glacier, a main thoroughfare for ice coming off Greenland, has pulled back more than six miles in just the past 10 years.
But is it smart to track fluctuating sea ice levels as a harbinger of climate change? After all, they ebb and flow with the seasons.
This piece on following melt rates and patterns puts it succinctly: “Lose the Arctic sea ice, and everything changes.”