Since 2002, Octobers in Barrow, Alaska—America's northernmost town—are regularly near the warmest on record, thanks to the retreat of sea ice. The warming hinders traditional hunting activities, makes the town more vulnerable to storm surge flooding, and thaws the frozen ground to greater depths, which destabilizes roads, house foundations, and traditional underground freezers.

It may seem remote from our everyday lives, but the Arctic exerts a powerful influence on the rest of the planet. From rising sea level, to U.S. and European weather, to bird migrations, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco describes how Arctic climate change can influence the rest of the planet.

Arctic sea ice extent set a new record low at the end of the summer melt season on September 16, 2012. But extent is not the only quality of the ice that is changing. Wind and ocean circulation patterns are conspiring with a warmer climate to reduce the amount of year-round (multi-year) ice, transforming the remaining ice into a younger, thinner version of its old self.

Minimum sea ice extent observed by satellites each September has decreased by 13 percent per decade since the late 1970s. All six of the smallest September minimum ice extents have occurred in the last six years. 

Arctic sea ice reaches its third lowest minimum extent on record.

Summer 2010 the second warmest on record, Arctic sea ice continues its 14-year decline

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