Arctic Sea Ice Decline
Part of: Prelims and GS – III – Climate change
Context Recently, the Arctic sea ice reached its minimum extent, coming in at 4.72 million square miles.
- It is the 12th lowest on record and the record minimum melting of the ice occurred in 2012.
- The ‘Last Ice Area’ (LIA), located in the Arctic’s Ice north of Greenland, has also started melting earlier than what the scientists had expected.
- Sea ice cover has dropped by roughly half since the 1980s as a direct result of increased carbon dioxide from human activities.
- At this stage of the melt season (summer), the sea ice pack is at its weakest and is highly responsive to the weather conditions of a given day or week. Subtle shifts can have big impacts.
Factors Causing Rapid Melting of Ice
- Albedo Feedback Loop: Ice is more reflective (has a higher albedo) than land or water surfaces.
- Counterclockwise Ice Circulation: Cyclones entering the Arctic from Siberia generated counterclockwise winds and ice drifts which reduced the amount of sea ice moving out of the Arctic through the Fram Strait, east of Greenland. This likely contributed to the record low summer sea ice conditions observed in the Greenland Sea.
- Low Pressure System: The low pressure system also increases cloudiness over the Arctic which can also trap heat lost from the surface.