Extraordinary global heating in the Arctic

Rapid warming and sea-ice loss in the Barents and Kara Seas area are an unmistakable consequence of increasing greenhouse gases. The monumental changes in this region will have devastating impacts... READ MORE

COUNTDOWN

CO2 Budget Depletion

VANISHING ARCTIC SEA ICE SPEEDS UP GLOBAL WARMING.

THE RISK

ARCTIC SEA-ICE EXTENT IS SHRINKING FAST. Arctic sea ice is an indicator of climate stability. Today, there is about 40% less sea ice coverage at the end of the melt season than existed in the 1980s. The ice area shrank by almost half the size of the entire European Union. What was left was smaller than at any time in at least 1,000 years.

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SEA ICE LOSS WORSENS WARMING. White ice cover reflects much of the sun’s energy back out to space. But as ice disappears, the dark ocean is exposed, absorbs more of the sun’s energy, and warms, helping to melt more snow and ice. Estimates suggest that the loss of Arctic sea ice together with reductions in snow cover over the boreal land areas will exacerbate global warming by 25 - 40%.

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IPCC FINDINGS

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the world’s most authoritative source on climate change. It reviews all published literature to provide comprehensive and objective scientific information.

VANISHING SEA ICE MEANS AN UNRECOGNISABLE WORLD
  • The area of Arctic seas covered by late-summer sea ice is shrinking by 10.5 to 15.1% every decade. Between 1979 and 2018, the extent of the sea ice dwindled for every month of the year.
  • Arctic sea ice is getting younger and less stable. In the 40 years between 1979 and 2018, the proportion of Arctic sea ice at least five years old shrank from almost a third to just two percent.
  • When global warming reaches between 1.5 and 2°C, scientists expect the Arctic to be practically sea ice-free during September in some years. If temperatures climb further, September sea ice will be mostly a thing of the past.

DIMINISHING SEA-ICE EXTENT

DATA SOURCE

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Shrinking sea ice extent means more dark ocean exposed, and more warming energy absorbed by Arctic waters, melting yet more ice. Scientists estimate that adding only 800 million tonnes more CO2 to the atmosphere will heat the Arctic enough to leave it practically sea ice free in the late summer. The way things are going, that’s just a few decades away.

DESTABILISED SEA ICE

DATA SOURCE

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Arctic sea ice is getting younger, thinner and less stable. While Arctic sea ice comes and goes with winter freezing and summer thaw, a significant portion of Arctic sea ice once remained through the Arctic summers, surviving from year to year. Ice older than 4 years old used to make up over 30% of the Arctic Ocean, but it now makes up only 3.1 percent of the ice cover. Further, thin first-year ice now makes up the majority of the Arctic Basin, making it more vulnerable to melting out each summer.