This September, the extent of Arctic sea ice shrank to roughly 4.7 million square kilometres, as was determined by researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute, the University of Bremen and Universität Hamburg. Though slightly larger than last year, the minimum sea ice extent 2017 is average for the past ten years and far below the numbers from 1979 to 2006. The Northeast Passage was traversable for ships without the need for icebreakers.
During the last glacial period, within only a few decades the influence of atmospheric CO2 on the North Atlantic circulation resulted in temperature increases of up to 10 degrees Celsius in Greenland – as indicated by new climate calculations from researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute and the University of Cardiff.
In 2012, news about the record low of Arctic sea ice minimum extent went around the world. Now, the Arctic sea ice maximum extent also has reached an all-time record low according to the data presented by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. A mere 14.4 million square kilometers of the Arctic Ocean were covered by ice.
2016 will be remembered for many things, one of them being the heat. Globally, it was the hottest year since instrumental records began, but Arctic temperatures during 2016 were truly exceptional. As the year drew to a close, the high-latitude Arctic was blistered with extended periods of record-breaking heat. Surface temperatures during October–December were, on average, ~5 °C above expected in an area spanning the Arctic Ocean, from Greenland across the North Pole to far eastern Russia.
In many areas, winter still hasn’t settled in and snow and ice are rare sights. In the north, unusually high air temperatures and a warm ocean have led to a record low Arctic sea ice extent for November, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder. In the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctic sea ice extent also hit a record low for the month, caused by moderately warm temperatures and a rapid shift in circumpolar winds.
The rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice is one of the most direct indicators of the ongoing climate change on our planet. Over the past forty years, the ice cover in summer has shrunk by more than half, with climate model simulations predicting that the remaining half might be gone by mid-century unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced rapidly. However, a number of studies have indicated that climate models underestimate the loss of Arctic sea ice, which is why these models might not be the most suitable tools to quantify the future evolution of the ice cover. A new study explains the underlying issues and allows for the first time to calculate individual contributions to Arctic's shrinking sea ice.
On September 10th 2016 Arctic sea-ice reached its minimum extent of 4.14 million square kilometres, making it the second lowest minimum on record. The record low is still retained by 2012, when the ice extent fell to an incredible 3.39 million square kilometres. But predicting exactly when the Arctic will see its first ice-free summer may be more difficult than previously believed, according to the results of new research.
The Arctic sea ice has become a synonym for effects of climate change. Almost every year, news of another record low of the white northern cap, which covers the Arctic Ocean, make it to the headlines in the news around the globe. This winter season, the extent of Arctic sea ice has reached another record low according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
The warming of arctic waters in the wake of climate change is likely to produce radical changes in the marine habitats of the High North. This is indicated by data from long-term observations in the Fram Strait, which researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) have now analysed. Their most important finding: even a short-term influx of warm water into the Arctic Ocean would suffice to fundamentally impact the local symbiotic communities, from the water’s surface down to the deep seas. As the authors recently reported in the journal “Ecological Indicators”, that’s precisely what happened between 2005 and 2008.
The German Research Foundation (DFG) supports the new Transregional Collaborative Research Centre TR 172 “Arctic climate change” represented by the speaker Prof. Dr. Manfred Wendisch, meteorologist from Leipzig University, during the next four years. In January 2016 the research network will start. Research partners in the project are the Alfred Wegener Institute, the Leipzig University, the University of Bremen, the University of Cologne and the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) in Leipzig. It is the first systematic large-scale investigation on this subject in Germany.