Quantcast

Alaska's Sea Ice Has All Melted

Climate
Tribal elder Warren Jones stands on the edge of climate change erosion caused by melting permafrost tundra and the disappearance of sea ice which formed a protective barrier, as it threatens houses from the Yupik Eskimo village of Quinhagak on the Yukon Delta in Alaska on April 12, 2019. MARK RALSTON / AFP / Getty Images

The ice near Alaska's shores has melted away entirely, leaving the nearest ice shelf nearly 150 miles away, according to new satellite data from the National Weather Service, as The Independent reported.


The historic Alaskan summer that saw record high temperatures, warmer seas, and a once in a lifetime heat wave, has caused the sea ice to vanish.

The phenomenon does not mean that the ice won't return. It should return in the fall as the Arctic moves away from the sun and the temperatures start to drop again. Alaska has seen a complete ice melt before, as recently as two years ago, but it has never vanished this early.

"It's cleared earlier than it has in any other year," said Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, as Mashable reported.

The melting is not just confined to Alaska. The Arctic ice around Greenland and Siberia has also seen record melting due to various heat waves, record temperatures between May and July and a rash of wildfires burning near the Arctic. This is all commensurate with the global climate crisis.

"This fits in exactly with our expectations of long-term climate change," said Zack Labe, a climate scientist and Ph.D. candidate at the University of California Irvine, to Vice's Motherboard.

Alaska's northernmost city, Utqiaġvik, which sits above the Arctic, had a record setting 25 straight days of temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

"July was by far the warmest month of record at Utqiaġvik," tweeted Thoman. "Of the 20th warmest months, six have been just since 2010."

He also noted that the Bering Sea set record warm temperatures, which is part of a troubling pattern of warming seas.

"Early summer (May-July) average sea surface temperatures in the northern Bering Sea were the highest of record in the @NOAANCEIclimate ERSSTv5 data," Thoman tweeted. "Each of the past six years is among the warmest of record."

The warming seas caused a record early melt, which has a devastating effect on local economies and residents who depend on the sea ice for hunting and fishing to sustain them through the long winter, as EcoWatch reported.

September sea ice has averaged a 13 percent decline each decade over the last 40 years since satellite records began, but this decade's melt will certainly push that average up. The rapid and severe changes around Alaska and the Arctic as a whole have scientists alarmed.

"This is a decline of around 85,000 square km per year – equivalent to losing an area of sea ice each year greater than the size of Scotland," said Ed Blockley, an expert on Arctic sea ice at the UK's Met Office, as The Independent reported.

"I'm losing the ability to communicate the magnitude [of change]," said Jeremy Mathis, a longtime Arctic researcher and current board director at the National Academies of Sciences, to Mashable. "I'm running out of adjectives to describe the scope of change we're seeing."

As this lack of sea ice becomes the new normal, local economies will have to adapt and experts suggest people along the Alaskan coast start moving to higher ground to escape flooding.

"At this time of year 'normally' (ie 30 years ago) there would be sea ice in southern Alaska waters but, more importantly, sea ice across the north coast of Alaska leaving only a narrow slot between ice and land for ships attempting a northwest passage," said professor Peter Wadhams from the University of Cambridge, to The Independent. "The latest shrinkage is part of an Arctic-wide phenomenon which is leading towards an ice-free summer as the future norm."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A mural in Richwood, West Virginia, a once booming Appalachia coal town, honors the community's history. Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

By Jeff Turrentine

The coal industry is dying. But we can't allow the communities that have been dependent on coal to die along with it.

Read More Show Less
ThitareeSarmkasat / iStock / Getty Images

by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Every fruit lover has their go-to favorites. Bananas, apples, and melons are popular choices worldwide and can be purchased almost anywhere.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
belchonock / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Hrefna Palsdottir, MS

Coconut oil is an incredibly healthy fat.

Read More Show Less
Wesley Martinez Da Costa / EyeEm / Getty Images

By David R. Montgomery

Would it sound too good to be true if I was to say that there was a simple, profitable and underused agricultural method to help feed everybody, cool the planet, and revitalize rural America? I used to think so, until I started visiting farmers who are restoring fertility to their land, stashing a lot of carbon in their soil, and returning healthy profitability to family farms. Now I've come to see how restoring soil health would prove as good for farmers and rural economies as it would for the environment.

Read More Show Less
skaman306 / Moment / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Radish (Raphanus sativus) is a cruciferous vegetable that originated in Asia and Europe (1Trusted Source).

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Tinnakorn Jorruang / iStock / Getty Images

By Dan Nosowitz

The budding research on cannabidiol, or CBD, attracts a great deal of interest in the agricultural field.

Read More Show Less
Oksana Khodakovskaia / iStock / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a tree native to China that's prized for its sweet, citrus-like fruit.

Read More Show Less

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new numbers that show vaping-related lung illnesses are continuing to grow across the country, as the number of fatalities has climbed to 33 and hospitalizations have reached 1,479 cases, according to a CDC update.

Read More Show Less