The extent of Arctic sea-ice in November was the lowest ever recorded for that month. The dwindling sea ice may lead to a steep reduction in the polar bear population.
With winter approaching, it is common for Arctic sea ice toe begin to freeze over again; but this year, it has gone the opposite way in the vital area north of Norway.
In what would normally be a cold month in the Arctic, the ice in the Barents Sea shrank by 50,000 square kilometers, an area the size of Finnmark County (fylke).
Arctic sea ice measured a total of 9.1 million square kilometers in November, 800.0000 less than that recorded in 2006, and the lowest since satellite measurements began in 1979. The difference is as large an area as Norway and Sweden combined.
Seven consecutive negative records
2016 has been a bad year for sea ice in the north. November is the seventh month in a row in which it has set a ‘minimum’ record, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.
‘It’s crazy what’s happening up there. It’s bad’, said oceanographer, Jennifer Francis, of Rutgers University. Before now, a correlation has been demonstrated between ice development in the Barents Sea and the extreme south.
‘It is almost certain that we will see unusual weather events this winter’, said Francis.
In some places in the Arctic, the air temperature was 10 degrees higher than its normal temperature, while ocean temperatures were 4 degrees above the usual figure, which further prevents new ice being formed.
Dependent upon ice
A report was published on Wednesday which shows that the shrinking sea ice contributes to the threat to the polar bear population.
The first systematic assessment of how the two factors are interrelated shows a 70 % risk that the polar bear population will be reduced by more than 30 % over the next 35 years.
The time-period corresponds to three generations of the species, which are classified as ‘vulnerable’, and are today estimated at about 16,000 animals.
‘Polar bears rely on sea ice for most aspects of their life’, the report said. It was published in ‘Biology Letters’ from the British Science Association of The Royal Society, and collated over 35 years of satellite data, covering sea ice and known changes in 19 separate populations of polar bears in various parts of the Arctic.
One of the key features of ice for the bears is that it is from the ice that they hunt seals. This prey swims, and escapes from polar bears in the open sea.
Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today