Arctic Sea ice near record low level


In 2016, the maximum extent of Arctic sea ice was 5.57 million square miles, the lowest on record. This past year, sea ice extended 5.59 million square miles, an increase from last year.

Despite the small increase from last year, a downward trend in ice coverage has been recorded since satellites began observing sea ice extent in 1979. The sea ice extent for the past four years has been the four lowest on record.

Decreasing Arctic sea ice is a strong indicator that the Arctic is warming. For many, a warming Arctic implies warmer temperatures, but it could be a key factor in explaining the onslaught of winter storms and sub-zero temperatures that have been affecting the northeastern United States for the past month.

“The jet stream is getting weaker and shifting its behavior, sending cold air south from the Arctic and pumping warm air north,” Jennifer A. Francis, an Arctic researcher at Rutgers University, told The New York Times. “We’ve been in this pattern along the East Coast that is very conducive to the formation of nor’easter-type storms, part of the reason for that is because we’ve had this pattern in the jet stream that’s been so persistent.”

The influence of the Arctic on the global climate system is immense. A warming Arctic implies that sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are rising and that the jet stream is becoming unstable, creating massive storms.

In an age where the fight to stop climate change is gaining momentum, data like this is crucial; it continues to imply that global climate change is, and has been, occurring since the Industrial Revolution.

Will lawmakers and government officials finally begin to act on the data that scientists have been collecting for years? Who knows, but as time progresses and we continue to dig ourselves into a deeper hole, one day there will be no going back.