Arctic Ice Pack Melting At Record Levels As Climate Change Takes Hold

Arctic ice pack levels have receded to the second lowest level ever recorded in an ominous sign of global climate change. The Arctic ice pack, or the amount of solid ice that has formed in the Arctic Circle, fluctuates in size with the seasons. The summer low point this year was the second lowest recorded in history, exceeded only by the record low of 2012. Below, you can watch a NASA video of the Arctic ice pack at its minimum extent last year, which was the fourth lowest on record.

Arctic ice is monitored by The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, who told the Guardian that the ice pack reached a mark of 1.6 million square miles, a record low and vastly less than the averages established between 1970 and 2000. Mark Serreze, director of the Center, said that the new low in Arctic ice confirms a frightening new reality.

The Arctic ice pack reached it's second lowest summer level in history in 2016.
Arctic Ice Pack Summer Level, 2016 [Image by National Snow and Ice Data Center/AP Images]

“We have reinforced the overall downward trend. There is no evidence of recovery here,” Serreze said. “We’ve always known that the Arctic is going to be the early warning system for climate change. What we’ve seen this year is reinforcing that… It’s a tremendous loss that we’re looking at here.”

Serreze also stated that, given the current trend, he would not be surprised if the Arctic ice pack was completely gone during the summer by the year 2030. This latest aspect of climate change will have far-reaching effects, not only on global weather patterns but also on the realm of international security. The Arctic ice pack, a barometer for climate change worldwide, does not only affect the Arctic itself but the entire world, as pointed out by Michael Mann, a senior climate change scientist at Pennsylvania State University.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic… it looks increasingly likely that the dramatic decrease in Arctic sea ice is impacting weather in mid-latitudes and may be at least partly responsible for the more dramatic, persistent and damaging weather anomalies we’ve seen so many of in recent years.”

Climate change scientists say that the Arctic ice pack and other large ice formations like those in Antarctica reflect up to 50 percent of the energy they receive back out into space, while open water absorbs most of the heat it receives. The less Arctic and other sea ice there is, in other words, the hotter the world becomes. This increased heat has wide-ranging effects on global weather patterns and sea levels, leading to more frequent and far stronger storm surges.

Along with the arctic ice pack announcement, Phys.org reports that August 2016 has tied July as the hottest on record in modern times. Petteri Taalas, head of the United Nations Meteorological Organization which monitors climate change, discussed the rise in heat levels.

“It is looking likely that 2016 will (be) the hottest year on record, surpassing the incredible temperatures witnessed in 2015,” Taalas said. “We have witnessed a prolonged period of extraordinary heat which is set to become the new norm.”

A Naval researcher scans the Arctic ice pack.
Naval Researcher Stands on Arctic Ice Pack [Image by Tyler N. Thompson/AP Images]

If true, 2016 will be the hottest year recorded in 137 years of record keeping. The trend appears to be steadily climbing as climate change continues, with the effects reinforcing themselves. For example, the Arctic ice pack is receding due to increased temperatures, but as the ice serves to reflect heat, the recession leads to even higher temperatures, leading to more Arctic ice melt, and so on. The cycle of climate change leads to a more and more rapid expansion of the overall problem.

Climate change scientists have overwhelmingly agreed that global warming and the associated side effects, such as the melting of the Arctic ice pack, are the result of human causes, mainly the burning of fossil fuels and the amount of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. The United Nations Meteorological Organization has called on world nations to sign a pact made in Paris last year that would require member nations to take steps to combat climate change.

[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]