Every summer some of the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean melts. And, it's once again that time of year. The Arctic sea ice melt is on!
There is no way to know how much sea ice will be left at the end of any melt season, but there's one thing we can be pretty sure of, and that's that there will be less sea ice up there at the end of this melt season than the 1981-2010 average of 6.3 million square kilometers.
2001 was the last year the sea ice minimum was greater than long-term average.
The data below show the annual minimum sea ice extent for the Arctic Ocean between 1979 and 2013 (data courtesy of the NSIDC.org). There is a lot of variability in the data (which is normal for any natural system), but the interesting and worrisome thing is that on average the amount of sea ice remaining at the end of the summer melt season is dropping at an increasing rate (see the trend line through the data).
The increasing steepness of the slope is what worries me. These data indicate that not only do we have a trend of increasing sea ice melt in the Arctic, but that the rate ice is melting is accelerating.
Climatologists have long projected that the effects of global climate change will be observed earliest and most clearly in the Arctic. The rate of melting sea ice is just one of those indicators, but it's a powerful one!
Global warming is not just some wild-eyed idea; the reality of global warming is a scientific conclusion based on decades of multiple lines of evidence.
Will we see a new record Arctic sea ice minimal this summer? No one can know this, but science can with a high degree of confidence predict that there will be less ice on average this summer than we've seen in the past.
The data below show the current sea ice extent and recent extent history comparing 2014 and 2012, the year with the current minimum sea ice extent) so far.
The answer to the so what question is this. Global warming is real, and unless we get busy doing what we can to mitigate the effects of climate change we are in for some serious trouble.
America...the alarm clock is ringing. Are you waking up?