Warming temperatures across North Pole credited with falling ice levels, months before UN primed to deliver climate pact in Paris
By Ed King
Arctic sea ice levels have fallen to their lowest winter levels since satellite records began in 1979.
Ice levels hit their winter peak on February 25, covering 14.54 million square kilometres, well below the 1981-2010 average of 15.64 million square kilometres.
“This year’s maximum ice extent was the lowest in the satellite record, with below-average ice conditions everywhere except in the Labrador Sea and Davis Strait,” the National Snow and Ice Data Center, a US federal agency, said in a statement.
Sea ice builds in the Arctic over the winter, shrinking back to a minimum every September.
Warmer temperatures across the region have been credited with the fall in ice coverage, in a new sign of the effects of climate change.
A 2013 report from scientists working with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said there are “multiple lines of evidence” supporting “very substantial” Arctic warming.
The rate of loss from the Greenland ice sheet had also increased over the past two decades, they said.
“This is not a record to be proud of. Low sea ice can create a series of reactions that further threaten the Arctic and the rest of the globe,” said Alexander Shestakov, director of WWF’s Global Arctic Programme.
2014 was the warmest year on record, according to multiple agencies including the World Meteorological Organisation.
Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, said the news should spur countries towards agreeing an ambitious UN climate pact in Paris later this year.
“This is further evidence that global warming and its impacts have not stopped despite the inaccurate and misleading claims of climate change ‘sceptics’,” he said.