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.
“It looks like a triple whammy—a warm ocean, a warm atmosphere, and a wind pattern all working against the ice in the Arctic,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze.
Arctic sea ice extent averaged 9.08 million square kilometers (3.51 million square miles) for November, 1.95 million square kilometers (753,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average for the month. Although the rate of Arctic ice growth was slightly faster than average, total extent actually decreased for a brief period in the middle of the month. The decrease in extent measured 50,000 square kilometers (19,300 square miles) and was observed mostly in the Barents Sea, an area of the Arctic Ocean north of Norway, Finland, and Eastern Russia.
The meticulous records of Capt. James Cook, the intrepid British explorer famous for exploring Australia and the Hawaiian islands, have found a new and modern-day value: Helping climate change scientists understand the extent of sea ice loss in the icy Canadian Arctic, according to a new study.
Notes, charts and maps created by Cook and his crew during an Arctic expedition in August 1778 carefully documented the position and thickness of the ice barring the explorers’ way. They were searching for a corridor that they thought would link the Pacific and northern Atlantic oceans and offer a new maritime trade route between Great Britain and the Far East.
Cook never found that route, known today as the Northwest Passage. But his observations and those of his crew provide the earliest recorded evidence of then-extensive summer ice cover in the Chukchi Sea. Read more.
Lowest amount of sea ice ever seen by humans during October/November
This week, this remarkable plot began blowing up on social media. The plot tracks global sea ice abundance – a combined measurement of the area covered by ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic. The red line, 2016, shows that Sea Ice extents globally are by far the lowest humans have ever recorded.
Probability of the presence of undiscovered oil/gas fields with significant amount of recoverable resources (> 50 million barrels of oil equivalent) across various regions in the Arctic. A stronger hue of blue means a higher probability.