The amount of Arctic sea ice melted away to a record low for the month of July
The amount of sea ice in the Arctic melted away to a record low for the month of July, scientists announced Tuesday.
Sea ice is frozen ocean water that melts each summer, then refreezes each winter. It affects Arctic communities and wildlife such as polar bears and walruses, and it helps regulate the planet’s temperature by influencing the circulation of the atmosphere and ocean.
Above-average air temperatures helped to keep the overall sea ice extent at record low levels, the National Snow and Ice Data Center said.
Early July brought “just the pattern you’d like to see if you’d like to get rid of ice,” Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, told Yale Climate Connections earlier in July. The average sea ice area for July 2020 was 2.81 million square miles, the lowest extent on record for the month. (Records go back to 1979.) This was some 846,000 square miles below the July average and 120,000 square miles below the previous record low mark for July set in 2019.
The amount of summer sea ice in the Arctic has been steadily shrinking over the past few decades because of global warming. It reached its second-smallest level on record in 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
The Arctic’s melt so far in 2020 has been most dramatic in the Laptev Sea, off the coast of central Russia. “It’s the Siberian side this year,” Serreze told Yale. Because of the unusually early retreat of sea ice on the Siberian side of the Arctic, the Northern Sea Route (aka the Northeast Passage) appeared to be ice-free during the second half of the month. This is the earliest in the year that the route has been free of ice, the data center said.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the world, Antarctic sea ice extent remains below average levels as it climbs toward its seasonal maximum, which is typically reached in early October.