According to reports from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), throughout June, Arctic sea ice has undergone rapid melting putting it well below 2007 levels and creating the potential for June to be another record-breaking month.
Almost all regions of the Arctic Ocean showed lower than average ice extent. In the Hudson Bay, Laptev, Kara, and Barents seas melt was particularly rapid. The Beaufort and Chukchi seas also showed ice coverage well below 1979-2000 norms. No regions showed above average sea ice extent.
This year’s very rapid June melt has the potential to break the record set just last year with some models showing 2011 could beat the all-time record low sea ice extent set in September of 2007.
An average of sea ice model surveys conducted by the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (link here: www.arcus.org/search/seaiceoutlook/2011/june), show that September 2011 sea ice extent is most likely to be lower than 2010 and tie with 2008 which was the second lowest in recorded history. However, the models suggest a potential for a record-breaking year. The ARCUS study notes that model “distribution is skewed toward lower values, suggesting either persistent conditions or a substantial drop below 2008 and 2010 values and the long-term downward trend.”
According to the NSIDC, Arctic sea ice is now melting at a rate of 11.5 percent per decade. But summer lows since 2007 are well below previous estimates. If a new record low is reached this year it would show that not only is the Arctic melting, the rate of melt is accelerating rapidly. (See study here: nsidc.org/sotc/sea_ice.html)
Most climate studies point toward ice-free summers in the Arctic starting by mid century. But some studies show no sea ice at the North Pole before the end of this decade. Ice free summers would enhance global warming by reducing earth’s reflectivity. Dark oceans absorb more sunlight than white ice sheets. Many scientists are concerned that the increased temperatures caused by more ocean heat absorption would put a greater strain on Greenland’s glaciers which are already melting at increasing rates.
Over the past few years, climate change deniers have claimed that the 2007 record low in Arctic sea ice was an outlier and that Arctic ice would soon recover. Despite these claims, sea ice area has remained near the record low set in 2007 with 2008 being the second lowest ice extent on record, 2009 being the fourth, and 2010 being the third.