top of page

Arctic sea ice could hit maximum extent ‘much earlier’ than usual

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

Some stations reported winter temperatures 30C warmer than usual with situation echoed in Antarctica

By: Theguardian

An extreme heat event in the Arctic could cause it to reach the maximum of the extent of its ice for this year “considerably earlier” than usual, a scientist has warned.

Temperature records were broken in Norway last week, with rain falling at Svalbard airport, and unusually warm temperatures recorded in Greenland and the Russian archipelago of Franz Josef Land.

Some stations reportedly reached 30C warmer than usual for the Arctic winter. The situation was echoed at the south pole, with Concordia station, on the Antarctic Plateau, hitting a record -11.8C on Friday, more than 40C warmer than usual for this time of year.

“It is unusual to have such large departures from average occur at the same time at both poles, and in the Arctic it may have led to the maximum sea ice extent reached considerably earlier than average,” said Prof Julienne Stroeve, professor of polar observation and modelling at University College London (UCL). Arctic sea ice extent was tracking well below the 1981 to 2010 median, according to data published by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. On 21 March, it spread across 14.5m sq km (5.6m sq miles) compared with a 15.5m sq km historical average. The NSIDC’s graph showed levels were also tracking below those seen in 2012, when Arctic sea ice hit its lowest ever extent. However, ice extent was greater than that seen at this time of year in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, and broadly in line with levels in 2019 and 2021. Similar extents were also seen in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2011. Stroeve was cautious about attributing the extreme heat events to the climate crisis. “While we may expect such warming extremes to occur more frequently under climate change, it is too early to say this particular event is related to climate change,” she said. “Weather is always unpredictable. And it’s important to remember that air temperatures, while warmer than average, remain below zero.” Dr Lisa Schipper, co-ordinating lead chapter author for the IPCC sixth assessment report and Oxford environmental research fellow, said: “The IPCC report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability released in February underscores that the window of opportunity to act on climate is rapidly closing. “If these extreme temperatures don’t wake people up about this urgency, at the same time as war threatens to encourage more fossil fuel extraction and use, I don’t know what will.”

… we have a small favour to ask. Tens of millions have placed their trust in the Guardian’s fearless journalism since we started publishing 200 years ago, turning to us in moments of crisis, uncertainty, solidarity and hope. More than 1.5 million supporters, from 180 countries, now power us financially – keeping us open to all, and fiercely independent. Unlike many others, the Guardian has no shareholders and no billionaire owner. Just the determination and passion to deliver high-impact global reporting, always free from commercial or political influence. Reporting like this is vital for democracy, for fairness and to demand better from the powerful. And we provide all this for free, for everyone to read. We do this because we believe in information equality. Greater numbers of people can keep track of the global events shaping our world, understand their impact on people and communities, and become inspired to take meaningful action. Millions can benefit from open access to quality, truthful news, regardless of their ability to pay for it. If there were ever a time to join us, it is now. Every contribution, however big or small, powers our journalism and sustains our future.

1 view0 comments
bottom of page