Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

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

Pexels

By Daniel Yetman

Bleach and vinegar are common household cleaners used to disinfect surfaces, cut through grime, and get rid of stains. Even though many people have both these cleaners in their homes, mixing them together is potentially dangerous and should be avoided.

Read More Show Less
During a protest action on May 30 in North Rhine-Westphalia, Datteln in front of the site of the Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant, Greenpeace activists projected the lettering: "Climate crisis - Made in Germany" onto the cooling tower. Guido Kirchner / picture alliance / Getty Images

Around 500 climate activists on Saturday gathered outside the new Datteln 4 coal power plant in Germany's Ruhr region, to protest against its opening.

Read More Show Less
Dr. Mark Brunswick (2R), Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Quality, walks through the lab at Sorrento Therapeutics in San Diego, California on May 22. ARIANA DREHSLER / AFP / Getty Images

By Julia Ries

Around the world, there have been several cases of people recovering from COVID-19 only to later test positive again and appear to have another infection.

Read More Show Less

By Samantha Hepburn

In the expansion of its iron ore mine in Western Pilbara, Rio Tinto blasted the Juukan Gorge 1 and 2 — Aboriginal rock shelters dating back 46,000 years. These sites had deep historical and cultural significance.

Read More Show Less
Meadow Lake wind farm in Indiana. Anthony / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Tara Lohan

The first official tallies are in: Coronavirus-related shutdowns helped slash daily global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14 percent in April. But the drop won't last, and experts estimate that annual emissions of the greenhouse gas are likely to fall only about 7 percent this year.

Read More Show Less
Andrey Nikitin / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Adrienne Santos-Longhurst

Plants are awesome. They brighten up your space and give you a living thing you can talk to when there are no humans in sight.

Turns out, having enough of the right plants can also add moisture (aka humidify) indoor air, which can have a ton of health benefits.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A bald eagle chick inside a nest in Rutland, Massachusetts. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
A bald eagle nest with eggs has been discovered in Cape Cod for the first time in 115 years, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass Wildlife), as Newsweek reported.
Read More Show Less