Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Climate Change July 20, 2016 - 11:45 am

Global and Arctic temperatures the warmest since 1880, climate trackers report

"Record high temperatures in the Arctic over the past six months have been even more extreme"

JANE GEORGE
Look to the red: It shows how much higher temperatures have been in the Arctic since January 2016. (IMAGE COURTESY OF BERKELEY EARTH)
Look to the red: It shows how much higher temperatures have been in the Arctic since January 2016. (IMAGE COURTESY OF BERKELEY EARTH)
This NASA image shows the melt ponds on Arctic sea ice which increase warming because they absorb light instead of reflecting it. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NASA)
This NASA image shows the melt ponds on Arctic sea ice which increase warming because they absorb light instead of reflecting it. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NASA)

The world has a fever, prompting climate-change agencies in the United States to sound an alarm July 19 about a 1.3 C increase in the global temperature recorded during the first six months of 2016.

The size of that increase surpasses the previous record set in 2015.

“2015, as some of you were aware, was a warm year, but 2016 really has blown that out of the water,” Gavin Schmidt, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said July 19 at a news conference.

Overall, the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective months globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880, NASA said.

But the global trend in rising temperatures was outpaced by warming in the Arctic, said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist, in a NASA release.

“It has been a record year so far for global temperatures, but the record high temperatures in the Arctic over the past six months have been even more extreme,” Meier said.

In the Arctic you can find temperature increases of 2.5 C to 12 C from January 2016 to June 2016, as graphics from the Berkeley Earth organization show.

That warming trend continued into July for residents of western Nunavut who enjoyed a heat wave.

In Kugluktuk temperatures reached a scorching 29.2 C on June 5 and 27 C July 6.

“This warmth as well as unusual weather patterns have led to the record low sea ice extents so far this year,” Meier said.

And that’s the other key climate indicator: Arctic sea ice. Both trends, high temperatures and low ice cover, are driven by rising concentrations of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, NASA said.

Five of the first six months of 2016 set records for the smallest monthly Arctic sea ice extent since 1979, NASA said.

The exception, March, recorded the second smallest extent for that month.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also announced July 19 that June marked 14 consecutive months of record heat for the globe, with average sea surface temperatures also recording high temperatures.

Meanwhile, NASA’s Operation IceBridge last week began a series of airborne measurements of melt ponds on the surface of the Arctic sea ice.

Melt ponds, shallow pools of water that form as ice melts, absorb more sunlight than ice and, for this reason, accelerate the melting process.

IceBridge recently started its flights out of Barrow, Alaska. That’s because recent studies have found that the formation of melt ponds early in the summer is a good predictor of the yearly minimum sea ice extent in September, NASA said.

Another NASA study, called the Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment, plans to study how forests, permafrost and other ecosystems are responding to rising temperatures in the Arctic.

Research published in the most recent edition of the online journal Nature already point to changes in the Arctic:

• A study on the emerging impact of Greenland meltwater on deepwater formation in the North Atlantic Ocean says that freshwater release from melting polar ice could soon weaken the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation — impacting the world’s climate; and,

• A study on how clouds are moving northward towards the pole where these are likely to further warm the climate.

This graph, which rises in a shape similar to that of a hockey stick, shows the increase in global temperatures since the 1880s. (IMAGE COURTESY OF NASA)
This graph, which rises in a shape similar to that of a hockey stick, shows the increase in global temperatures since the 1880s. (IMAGE COURTESY OF NASA)
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