Arctic Sea Ice at Record Low for Time of Year

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Arctic sea ice looks set to reach an all-time record low in September 2020. A Blue Ocean Event (BOE) is one of the many tipping points threatening to get crossed in the Arctic. A BOE occurs when sea ice extent gets below 1 million square km, which is important regarding the amount of sunlight absorbed/reflected in the Arctic (albedo feedback).

As illustrated by the image on the right, sea ice is getting very thin, which threatens the latent heat tipping point to be crossed, meaning there is no buffer of sea ice left underneath the surface of the sea ice to absorb ocean heat.

Furthermore, the temperature rise in the Arctic is accelerating and the Arctic Ocean is getting very hot, threatening that the methane hydrates tipping point will get crossed.

Meanwhile, fires and smoke are visible at a distance of as little as 1970 km or 1224 miles from the North Pole.

Alarming acceleration of heating continues

The Copernicus image below shows twelve-month averages of global-mean surface air temperature anomalies relative to 1981-2010.

The shape of current anomalies is very similar to the peak reached around 2016. This is alarming because the peak around 2016 was reached under El Niño conditions, whereas the current temperatures are reached under conditions that are leaning toward La Niña, as illustrated by the image below.

One may wonder how much stronger the temperatures rise will be once El Niño conditions do arrive.

Furthermore, one may wonder how much current temperatures are elevated by a decrease in emissions due to COVID-19 restrictions, which in turn makes one wonder how much higher the temperature will be when the sulfate masking effect will disappear as the world phases out coal-fired power plants, bunker oil for shipping, etc.

The situation is dire and calls for immediate, comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.


• Arctic Data archive System

• Polar Portal – sea ice volume

• NASA Worldview

• Surface air temperature for June 2020

• ENSO: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions – NOAA, July 6, 2020

• Arctic Hit By Ten Tipping Points

• Climate Plan

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