File this under short term trends matter when we say they matter.
BY RANDY BOSWELL, CANWEST NEWS SERVICE
Arctic Ocean ice cover retreated faster last month than in any previous May since satellite monitoring began more than 30 years ago, the latest sign that the polar region could be headed for another record-setting meltdown by summer’s end.
The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center had already warned earlier this spring that low ice volume — the result of repeated losses of thick, multi-year ice over the past decade — meant this past winter’s ice-extent recovery was superficial, due mainly to a fragile fringe of new ice that would be vulnerable to rapid deterioration once warmer temperatures set in.
And, driven by unusually hot weather in recent weeks above the Arctic Circle, the polar ice is disappearing at an unprecedented rate, reducing overall ice extent to less than that recorded in May 2007 — the year when a record-setting retreat by mid-September alarmed climatologists and northern governments.
The centre reported that across much of the Arctic, temperatures were two to five degrees Celsius above average last month.
“In May, Arctic air temperatures remained above average, and sea ice extent declined at a rapid pace,” the Colorado-based centre said in its June 8 report.
The centre pegged the retreat at an average of 68,000 square kilometres a day, noting that “this rate of loss is the highest for the month of May during the satellite record.”
Ice loss was greatest in the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk, “indicating that the ice in these areas was thin and susceptible to melt,” the centre added.
“Many polynyas, areas of open water in the ice pack, opened up in the regions north of Alaska, in the Canadian Arctic Islands, and in the Kara and Barents and Laptev seas.”