The Artic sea ice melting season usually lasts from March till September. After September, when the sea ice is at its minimum it starts refreezing and growing back on October. This year is different, with almost no growth in some place. The following graphs shows how this year, the rate at which the ice is freezing is the lowest ever seen, together with the second position on the lowest sea ice ever recorded, after 2012.
This is also evident when we look at the comparison of all the years since the active satellite observations began in 1979.
When autumn falls on the Laptev Sea, which borders the northwest coast of Siberia, sea ice typically starts to form in vast quantities that flow into the Arctic Ocean over the winter.
But this year, for the first time on record, the Laptev Sea’s seasonal ice pack has not started to freeze by late October, reports The Guardian. The delayed production of sea ice in such a critical region is yet another factor pointing in the direction of the climate crisis, and its disproportionate disruption of the Arctic.
Normally, the Laptev Sea acts as an ice factory, due to offshore winds that spur sea ice formation. But the rise in global temperatures, which is driven by human activity, has caused a decline in Arctic sea ice, including within this important feeder.
The long-term trend of ice loss kicks off feedback loops that could ultimately accelerate the dangerous environmental changes occurring in the Arctic.
The delayed Laptev Sea ice is just the latest of several climate anomalies in the Arctic this year. The region logged its hottest temperature ever, topping 100°F or 38 °C in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk in June. Unprecedented heat-waves exacerbated a devastating wildfire season that released a record-breaking amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Last spring, the sea ice retreated earlier than usual, exposing Arctic Ocean waters to a prolonged dose of sunlight that is also leading to warmer ocean temperatures and a delay in winter ice formation.
Scientists think we will witness the first ice-free summer in the Arctic—an event that has not happened for tens of thousands of years—within the next few decades.
The rapid retreat and low ice extent in the Laptev Sea this summer is truly exceptional and wasn't really predicted by models. It basically tells us that the interaction between ice, ocean, and atmosphere is very complex and not fully understood.