Record low Arctic sea ice in winter is not a good sign

Record low Arctic sea ice in winter is not a good sign

(WMC) - Arctic sea ice has been shrinking for several decades but it's occurring at a much faster pace and not just during the summer months. It's now happening during winter…this winter.

January's average ice extent in the Arctic was 525,000 square miles below the 1981-to-2010 average, making it the lowest January extent in the satellite record, according to a recent article in Discover Magazine.

You can read the entire article here.

What is most concerning to me is that it happened when the Arctic was covered in a frigid, polar air mass.

According to the article written by Tom Yulsman, record lows in the Arctic once occurred mostly in September — at the end of summer when relatively warm temperatures naturally cause the frozen lid of sea ice to shrink to an annual minimum extent.

With human-caused warming added on top of relatively mild summer temperatures, record melt-backs in summer perhaps are not so surprising.

Source: "A database for depicting Arctic sea ice variations back to 1850," John E. Walsh et al, Geographical Review, 11 July 2016

The graphic above compares minimum sea ice from 1854 to 2012. You can visibly see how much the white area in the Arctic shrinks during those three time periods. This leads to my next major concern. Arctic sea ice is actually melting at a much faster rate than the forecast models have been predicting.

If the current rate continues, year-round Arctic sea ice would melt away as early as the next 50 years. That would completely change the weather patterns and the overall climate of the poles and the world as a whole.

Does this mean the world is going to end or that we need issue a DEFCON 1? NO. But it IS something we should be very aware of and concerned about. Reducing greenhouse emissions will help slow this process down.

I liken it to keeping our houses and our environment as trash-free as possible. We try to keep our houses garbage free and our highways litter free. Why not at least try to keep our atmosphere greenhouse gas free?

If we do nothing, the forecast is for much more extreme weather decades down the road.

Spencer Denton
WMC Action News 5 Meteorologist
First Alert Storm Tracking Team
Facebook: Meteorologist Spencer Denton
Twitter: @spencerstorm5

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.