Scientists anticipate rapid melt in the Arctic during the summer months
The summer of 2016 is shaping up to be a hot one, and scientists are expecting record-breaking melt in the Arctic as global temperatures rise.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just released its summer outlook for the U.S., which forecasted above average summer temperatures for the majority of the U.S. Of all U.S. regions, Alaska’s Aleutian Islands have the highest odds of experiencing a significantly hotter-than-average summer, according to the NOAA. The Aleutians lie about 800 to 1,000 miles south of the Arctic Circle.
More of same, i.e. above average summer temperatures, are expected up in the Arctic this summer, as well. The state of Alaska in its entirety experienced a record-setting winter this year, as temperatures averaged more than 11 degrees above normal. These winter temperatures in Alaska this year broke records that were set just one year earlier.
— NOAA (@NOAA) May 20, 2016
NOAA’s Barrow Observatory
The NOAA’s Barrow Observatory sits about 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and, according to the NOAA, is typically one of the last places in the U.S. to lose snow cover. This year, staff at Barrow observed snowmelt on May 13, the earliest snowmelt date in 73 years of keeping records. Before this year, the earliest ever snowmelt at Barrow occurred on May 23, in 2002.
So, with a record-setting warm winter setting the table, record low Arctic sea ice extent observed this March, and now the earliest ever snowmelt observed at Barrow, scientists are expecting more records to be broken this summer. Specifically, they are expecting record-breaking Arctic melting. Exactly what this means to the local environment and wildlife remains to be seen.
"It looks like late June or early July right now. Polar bears are having to make their decisions about how to move and where to go on thinner ice pack that’s mostly first-year ice." -- David Douglas, research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey