The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Scientists Stunned by Off-the-Charts Arctic Temperatures, Record-Low Sea Ice
Over the past few days, many climate scientists took to social media to express dismay over the Arctic's unseasonably warm temperatures and its record-low sea ice. At the height of winter, the region is clocking temperatures normally seen in May.
"The northernmost permanent weather station in the world, just 440 miles from the North Pole, has warmed to 43°F today—in the middle of months-long darkness during what is normally the coldest time of the year," meteorologist Eric Holthaus tweeted Saturday.
"This is simply shocking. I don't have the words," he added.
"Just how hot is the Arctic now?" Peter Gleick, the president-emeritus of the Pacific Institute and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Science tweeted, "Hotter than ever measured in the winter. Human-caused climate change is beginning to radically transform our planet."
Climate scientist Zack Labe, a researcher at the University of California at Irvine, shared several striking graphs of the Arctic's record-breaking heat.
Robert Rohde, a lead scientist at Berkeley Earth, commented that parts of the Arctic are seeing temperatures more than 60°F above normal for February. In translation? "The North Pole is warmer than much of Europe right now."
"This is associated with a warm air intrusion from the Atlantic and displacement of cold air onto Asia following large scale disturbances to the polar jet stream," he explained.
"Temperatures are still breaking records at North Greenland. +6°C (43°F) for a daily high is not just a record for February, it beats the highest temperature observed at this site in March or April as well. This is roughly 35°C (63°F) above normal for this time of year," he tweeted Sunday.
In real-world terms, the warmth has caused crucial sea ice to melt. This frightening footage, first flagged by Mashable, shows how the Bering Sea's disappearing ice is exposing Alaskan coastal communities to terrifying storm surges. Normally, the sea is solidly frozen.
Labe also illustrated that Arctic sea ice is at record low levels:
Lars Kaleschke, a physicist and professor for sea ice remote sensing at the University of Hamburg, noted "there is open water north of Greenland where the thickest sea ice of the Arctic used to be."
"This has me more worried than the warm temps in the Arctic right now. That sea ice north of Greenland among the last vestiges of old, thick sea ice existing in the Arctic ocean," Mike MacFerrin, a researcher of ice sheet meltwater feedbacks at the University of Colorado Boulder, tweeted in response to Kaleschke's startling point. "Break it apart, it can circulate straight out into the Atlantic come summer. We'll see what comes."
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.