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Posts Tagged ‘Arctic Sea Ice Extent’

We Have Been Warned: The Melting Arctic’s Dramatic Impact On Global Weather Patterns

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2016 at 12:55 pm

(Photo: Melting Glacier via Shutterstock)Oldspeak: “Yep. It’s plain to see. Weather is frickin weird. And the rapidly melting Arctic is a major driver of weather related madness. Unprecedented floods, unending droughts, ginormous hurricanes, 70 degrees on christmas, the north pole above freezing in the middle of winter, weakening jet stream, ocean currents slowing down, the melting of polar ice sheets is quite literally affecting the rotation of the planet. The basic fact is “everything in the planet’s climate system is linked together, and when one part of it changes, all the other parts will respond.” The climate system’s responses so far are not pretty atal. Expect this climactic chaos to intensify and species extinctions to accelerate as temperatures rise and conditions worsen.” -OSJ

 

Written by Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

Arctic sea ice is melting at a record pace – and every summer looks grimmer. This past summer saw the ice pack at its fourth-lowest level on record, and the overall trend in recent decades suggests this will only continue.

“Using satellites, scientists have found that the area of sea ice coverage each September has declined by more than 40 percent since the late 1970s, a trend that has accelerated since 2007,” according to the recent report “Arctic Matters: The Global Connection to Changes in the Arctic” by the National Research Council of the National Academies.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

The report added that by the end of each of the eight summers from 2007 to 2014, Arctic sea ice extent was over less area than at any time in the preceding three decades.

In addition to rapid melting of the sea and land ice in the Arctic, temperatures there are warming at least twice as fast as those of the rest of the planet – provoking other dramatic changes.

“Eventually we should see an Arctic Ocean ice free in summers as global temperatures continue to warm.”

Massive wildfires on frozen ground, resulting from increasingly dry conditions caused by anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), are becoming common; this phenomenon is unprecedented over at least the last 10,000 years.

These and other recent changes across the Arctic are making the weather and climate patterns there – and across the rest of the planet – more difficult to predict.

As Arctic Matters reports, “Changes in the Arctic have the potential to affect weather thousands of miles away. Because temperatures are increasing faster in the Arctic than at the tropics, the temperature gradient that drives the jet stream is becoming less intense.”

This causes the jet stream to weaken and shift away from its typical patterns, which then leads to weather patterns becoming more persistent and lasting longer in the mid-latitudes. This then results in longer droughts, more intense heat waves, and far longer and deeper cold snaps, such as those witnessed in the Northeastern United States and Europe during the last two winters.

Truthout interviewed several leading scientists on these issues, seeking a consistent expectation for what the dramatic changes in the Arctic mean. The verdict? If there’s one thing that all the scientists’ predictions have in common, it is significant change.

The Vanishing Arctic Ice Pack

Dr. Julienne Stroeve is a senior research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. She specializes in the remote sensing of snow and ice, and works in the Arctic measuring changes in the sea ice.

“Eventually we should see an Arctic Ocean ice free in summers as global temperatures continue to warm,” Stroeve told Truthout. She expects us to begin seeing summer periods of an ice-free Arctic ice pack around the year 2040.

Bob Henson is a meteorologist with the Weather Underground, and author of The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change.

He believes that while there will most likely be some small areas of year-round ice clinging to far northern Canada for decades to come, “I would expect a summer in the next 20 to 30 years in which sea ice covers as little as 10 percent of the Arctic for at least a few days in August or September,” he said.

Everything in the planet’s climate system is linked, and when one part of it changes, all the other parts will respond.

Henson pointed out that if we extrapolate data and make predictions from more recent conditions in the Arctic, the timeline for seeing a total loss of sea ice seems faster, but he said we will most likely see summer sea ice declining “in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process, with record ice loss in some years (as in 2007 and 2012) and a temporary, partial ‘recovery’ in other years (as in 2009 and 2013).”

Regardless of the specifics of the timeline, many agree that an ice-free Arctic will appear before the next century begins.

Dr. Steven Vavrus at the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison focuses on the Arctic and serves on the science steering committee for the Study of Environmental Arctic Change. “The precise timing is nearly impossible to pin down, but most estimates range from around 2040 until the end of this century,” he told Truthout. “I would be very surprised if seasonally ice-free conditions during summer do not emerge by 2100.”

Dr. David Klein is the director of the climate science program at California State University, Northridge. Like others, he pointed out how the Arctic is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the planet, and pointed out how ice loss there is “proceeding more rapidly than models have predicted.”

“The loss of sea ice decreases albedo [reflectivity] and results in greater absorption of energy in the water, and the warm water then heats the air above it,” Klein told Truthout. “NASA’s CERES satellites have observed an increase of 10 watts per square meter of solar radiation absorbed by the Arctic Ocean from 2000 to 2014.”

By way of comparison, overall net planetwide warming from greenhouse gases thus far is only one-twentieth that amount of heating.

While that might not sound like very much, as James Hansen has pointed out, cumulatively that amount corresponds to 400,000 Hiroshima atom bombs per day, 365 days a year, across the planet.

Changing Global Weather Patterns

Stroeve explained why the Arctic is vitally important in terms of its impact on the global climate system.

“The Arctic is typically covered by snow and ice year around,” she said. “Snow and ice have a high albedo, meaning they reflect most of the sun’s energy back out to space, helping to keep the region, and the planet, cooler than [they] otherwise would be. As the sea ice melts, or snow [and] glaciers melt, it lowers the albedo, allowing more of the sun’s energy to be absorbed by the ocean and land surfaces, further warming the region.”

Hence, all of our large-scale weather and ocean patterns are tied to the temperature difference between the poles, which receive less solar input, Stroeve said, and the equator, which receives most of the solar input.

“If that temperature difference changes, we would expect the large-scale weather patterns, i.e. the jet stream pattern, to respond,” she added. “This would then [have an] impact on precipitation patterns, perhaps frequency of extreme weather events etc.”

Henson warned that we are entering “uncharted territory” when it comes to the loss of Arctic sea ice.

“The ice loss in recent years has been unprecedented since satellite coverage began in the 1970s, and all signals point to a continued decline in summer sea ice over the next few decades,” he said. “We may already be seeing the effects of Arctic sea ice loss in mid-latitude weather patterns.”

Henson warned that in the coming decades, an Arctic Ocean that is completely open for even a few days or weeks per year, could well shape the atmosphere “in ways that are not yet fully understood.”

“The ‘climate system’ is a complex interconnection of air, land, plants, sea and ice,” he said. “Any transformation to this system as large as the loss of summertime Arctic sea ice should concern all of us, especially since it could reverberate in yet-unknown ways.”

Vavrus explained how the Arctic is the “refrigerator” of the global climate system, acting as the cold region that balances out the hot tropics.

“In this role, the Arctic helps to regulate the energy balance of the climate system and the weather circulation patterns both within high latitudes and elsewhere,” he said.

He went on to point out that the most common expectation among scientists about the impact that the loss of summer sea ice will have on global climate patterns is that more solar energy will be absorbed by the Arctic Ocean and land, and the added heat from the earth’s surface will then be released back into the atmosphere during autumn and winter.

“That will then make the region much warmer during those seasons than in the current climate,” Vavrus said. “That will likely lead to a weakening of jet-stream winds and probably a wavier jet-stream flow pattern.”

This will then result in shifting jet-stream winds, and lead to more persistent and extreme weather patterns both within and outside of the Arctic, he added.

Extreme weather patterns don’t necessarily mean a universal trend toward hot weather. Henson pointed out that research by some scientists is showing that sea ice loss may be helping to cause colder mid-latitude winters like those seen recently in the Northeastern United States. Why? According to Henson, this could be because “the heat released from the newly opened ocean may be helping to slow and weaken the polar jet stream.”

Another mechanism Henson mentioned is how open water in the Barents and Kara Seas may be moistening the autumn atmosphere over Siberia, leading to heavier autumn snows and triggering a chain of events leading to midwinter Arctic outbreaks.

Stroeve said that while exact ramifications of an ice-free Arctic continue to remain unclear, “There is some thought that the warming Arctic has already led to a slowing down of the zonal wind speeds, and perhaps also causing a wavier jet-stream pattern, which would allow for more extreme (or ‘stuck’) weather patterns to persist.”

Klein pointed to how the melting Arctic sea ice “can disrupt normal ocean circulation because of the influx of freshwater from the melted ice, and rising air heated by the water can change wind patterns and even perturb the jet stream, which in turn might alter weather patterns thousands of miles away.”

Some current research states that this contributes to the extreme “polar vortex” weather events we’ve seen in recent years, in addition to the extreme drought plaguing much of the western United States.

Klein also pointed out another dramatic impact the loss of ice is having within the Arctic itself.

“With ice no longer stabilizing land along coasts, erosion will increase and fragile permafrost areas will release more greenhouse gases,” he said. “Permafrost coasts [permanently frozen soil next to open water bodies] comprise a third of the world’s coastline. This is another positive feedback leading to further warming.”

We Have Been Warned

Stroeve pointed out that people should be concerned about the upcoming summer periods of an ice-free Arctic Ocean due to the fact that everything in the planet’s climate system is linked together, and when one part of it changes, all the other parts will respond.

“It also causes our planet to warm further, changes [in] species’ habitat/range, perhaps leading to extinction for some species,” she explained. “A change in our precipitation patterns will impact food and water security. Then, of course, there are people who live in the Arctic and are being directly impacted by these changes.”

Dr. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University’s Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences whose research is focused on the Arctic, pointed out how the Arctic sea ice plays a critical role in the region’s climate system and marine ecosystem. And as we’re learning, its disappearance “is having broad effects well beyond the Arctic.”

Impacts range “from weather patterns to animal migrations to ocean current systems to food webs,” Francis told Truthout. “Its loss will be felt directly and indirectly by billions of people.”

 

East Siberian Heatwave Begins; 98.78 Degree Temperature Recorded Well Within Arctic Circle

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2015 at 7:10 pm

Oldspeak:” While the media gives wide coverage to the heatwaves that have been hitting populous countries such as India, Pakistan, the U.S., Spain and France recently, less attention is given to heatwaves hitting the Arctic.” -Sam Carana

“Mere months following reports of record heat recorded in Antarctica near the South fucking Pole, we see this. Seems as though corporate media’s sensationally reported disaster porn is focused only the mid-latitudes, while the region where the stakes are highest and the heatwave is most life-threateningly unusual, is ignored. By way of reference, it was 80 degrees in New York on July 2nd when this insane temperature was recorded near the North fucking Pole!!! This syncs up with current movement of the ever slowing and destabilized jet stream where as you can see in Sam’s illustrations its cooler than normal around that area of the U.S. east coast, as arctic air creeps further south. It’s only broken 90 once or twice so far this summer in New York, following a brutally cold and snowy winter/fall. This is a dire situation, it affects all life on earth, and it is not being reported. I imagine business will continue as usual and it won’t be reported until it’s impossible to ignore. Only Love Remains.” -OSJ

Written By Sam Carana @ Arctic News:

The image below illustrates the intensity of the heatwave over western Europe, with temperatures forecast to keep hitting the top end of the scale for days to come.

Global warming is strengthening heatwaves. The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world, so the temperature difference between the North Pole and the Equator is getting smaller. It is this temperature difference that powers the jet stream. The result is that the speed at which the jet stream circumnavigates the globe is falling. Furthermore, the path of the jet stream is changing, sometimes extending far to the north, then deeper to the south, just like a river will meander more where the land is flatter.

Above image illustrates that these changes to the jet stream make that warm air from the south can more easily move up north, to higher latitudes, while cold air from the Arctic can more easily move down to lower latitudes, in both cases further decreasing the temperature difference between the North Pole and the Equator, which makes these changes to the jet stream a self-reinforcing feedback loop that is rapidly making the situation worse.

While such developments have been documented for years, e.g. see this feedbacks page, the media rarely inform people about them. And while the media do cover the suffering caused by the heatwaves that have been hitting populous countries such as India, Pakistan, the U.S., Spain and France recently, less attention is given to heatwaves hitting the Arctic.

High temperatures close to the Arctic Ocean are very worrying, for a number of reasons, including:

  • They are examples of heatwaves that can increasingly extend far to the north, all the way into the Arctic Ocean, speeding up warming of the Arctic Ocean seabed and threatening to unleash huge methane eruptions.
  • They set the scene for wildfires that emit not only greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, but also pollutants such as carbon monoxide (that depletes hydroxyl that could otherwise break down methane) and black carbon (that when settling on ice causes it to absorb more sunlight).
  • They cause warming of the water of rivers that end up in the Arctic Ocean, thus resulting in additional sea ice decline and warming of the Arctic Ocean seabed.
June 24, 2015 – Smoke from wildfires in Alaska – from: wunderground.com

The image below shows a location well inside the Arctic Circle where temperatures as high as 37.1°C (98.78°F) were recorded on July 2, 2015. The top panel shows temperatures, while the bottom panel also shows the depth of the Arctic Ocean and the location of the Gakkel Ridge, in between the northern tip of Greenland and the Laptev Sea.

As the image below shows, the jet stream is forecast to move up high into the Arctic north of Siberia over the next few days. The image shows the jet stream as at July 8, 2015.

The image below shows a forecast of temperature anomalies for July 7, 2015.

The four images below illustrate how the heatwave is forecast to develop over the next few days (hat tip to Mark Richardson).

Rain close to the North Pole (forecast July 7, 2015)

The image on the right, also created with a Climate Reanalyzer image, shows rain over the Arctic, over the EastSiberian Sea and over an area close to the North Pole.

Rain over sea ice will create melt ponds with associated loss in albedo (reflectivity), making that light that was previously reflected back into space by the sea ice will instead be absorbed by the water, further speeding up the demise of the sea ice.

The picture below was taken July 2, 2015, by WebCam#1, mounted on a satellite-reporting buoy. The camera provides a wide-angle 120° horizontal field of view and was installed in April 2015, about 1.5 m above the ice surface, at a location some 25 miles from the North Pole. The buoy has meanwhile drifted some distance away from the North Pole, see map at this page.

WebCam#1 showing water on July 2, 2015

The presence of water can indicate that the sea ice has completely disappeared in the respective area, which could in turn be caused by sea ice melting and/or bubbling up of methane, so it’s important to keep monitoring this. More likely though, the water is probably surface water on top of the ice, caused by melting and/or rain. Anyway, water reflects less sunlight back into space than sea ice, so the result will be that more sunlight is instead absorbed by the water and/or the sea ice.

With temperatures as high as the 37.1°C (98.78°F) recorded on July 2, 2015 (image further above), huge melting can be expected where there still is sea ice in the waters off the coast of Siberia, while the waters where the sea ice has already gone will warm up rapidly.

Note that the waters off the coast of Siberia are less than 50 m (164 ft) deep, so warming can quickly extend all the way down to the seabed, that can contain enormous amounts of methane in the form of free gas and hydrates.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan.

Global Temperatures And Atmospheric CO2: Hottest March Ever; CO2 Hits All-Time High Of 404 ppb. Last 12 Months On Earth Hottest In Recorded History

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Oldspeak:March 2015 was Earth’s warmest March since global record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on Friday. NASA rated March 2015 as the 3rd warmest March on record (small differences in analysis techniques can lead to slightly different rankings from agency to agency, and the two estimates were quite close to each other.) March 2015’s warmth makes the year to date period (January – March) the warmest such period on record, and the past twelve months the warmest twelve-month period in recorded history. By NOAA’s reckoning, seven of the past eleven months (May, June, August, September, October, and December 2014, along with March 2015) have tied or set new record high monthly temperatures. According to NASA, March 2015 had the 5th largest departure from average for warmth of any month in recorded history. Out of the ten months with the largest departures from average in the NASA database, five have occurred in the past year.” -Dr. Jeff Masters

“As temperatures and CO2 rise, our chances of survival dwindles. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick tick….” -OSJ

By Jon Plotkin @ Decoded Science:

The map of March land and sea temperatures shows warmth over much of the globe, with a cold pocket over eastern Canada and New England. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.

NOAA published its report on global land and sea temperatures for March on Friday, April 17. Inasmuch as five of the previous seven months set new records, it was not surprising that March’s land and sea temperatures were the highest ever recorded for that month.

The three months of January through March, and the most recent calendar year are also the warmest ever recorded for those periods of time.

Separately, but not coincidentally, the instruments on Mount Mauna Loa in Hawaii found atmospheric CO2 concentrations to be above 404 parts per billion for the first time on April 14. That was the first of four consecutive days above 400.

An Overview Of March Worldwide Land And Sea Temperatures

Most of the Earth was warmer than normal in March – let’s look at some specifics:

      • Very much above normal temperatures stretched across all of northern Europe and Asia.
      • The United Sates and Canada were split down the middle, with very cold temperatures in the east and very warm temperatures in the west.
      • All of South America, except for the northern tip, was warm.
      • Most of Africa was warm, but the northwest was cold.
      • Northern and eastern Australia were very warm.
      • All of India was colder than normal.
      • The largest ocean temperature anomaly continues to be off the west coast of the US and Canada, with the maximum in the Gulf of Alaska.
      • Overall, warmth was spread evenly between land and sea: The land surface temperatures were second highest for March, and ocean temperatures were third highest.
      • Warmth was also spread uniformly between the northern and southern hemispheres: The northern hemisphere had its second warmest March and the southern hemisphere tied its third warmest.

The map of precipitation anomaly for March shows that much of the US and western Europe were dry, while Turkey and the Balkans were very wet. Analysis courtesy of NOAA.

March Precipitation

Though precipitation varies greatly from month to month, some trends continued in March:

  • The drought goes on in California and the American west.
  • Most of Europe continued to be dry.
  • Heavy rains inundated the Balkans and Turkey.
  • Australia and the southern part of South America were dry.
  • India was wetter than normal.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent

Arctic sea ice extent has been measured by satellite since 1979.

The March measurement was 7.9% below the 1981-2010 average — the lowest Arctic sea ice extent ever measured for the month of March.

Atmospheric CO2 Reaches New High

The plot of daily CO2 readings on Mount Mauna Loa shows that the atmospheric concentration has been over 404 ppb for the last four days, something that never happened before. Graph courtesy of NOAA.

Since pre-industrial times, the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide (CO2) has risen from 280 to over 400 parts per billion (ppb). In the past week, the value of this greenhouse gas concentration, as measured on Mount Mauna Loa in Hawaii surpassed, 404 ppb for the first time.

The highest reading of 404.83 came on April 14, and the concentration was over 404 for four consecutive days before falling to 403.44 yesteday.

The weekly average for the week starting April 12 was 404.02, surpassing the old record of 403.42 set the previous week.

Carbon dioxide concentration normally peaks in May, so new daily and weekly records are likely to be set in the next few weeks.

Where Is The CO2 Coming From?

Though some of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide may be coming from other sources, the majority comes from power plants and automobile tailpipes.

The process of energy production from hydrocarbons is not a complicated one: A single carbon atom combines with a molecule of oxygen (consisting of two atoms) to make a carbon dioxide molecule (CO2). This chemical reaction releases energy, which is used to power our modern world. The CO2 produced by the combustion process is normally released into the air by power plants and cars.

Carbon dioxide has a natural atmospheric cycle in which the gas is expelled from volcanic sources and washed out of the atmosphere by precipitation. However, this process is a long one; the rate of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide in the last 150 years is unprecedented except for times of very high volcanic activity.

Stemming The Tide Of CO2 Increase

Though the production of greenhouse gases in general, and carbon dioxide in particular, has leveled off in the United States in recent years, the production of energy from fossil fuel burning continues to increase in developing countries. India and China are building coal-fired power plants — the worst of the fossil fuel power sources in terms of CO2 emissions — at a rate of about one plant per week.

The basic facts of the intransigent problem of increasing energy use hasn’t changed: Developed countries want to retain their lavish lifestyle; and developing countries want to acquire that lifestyle. A new UN-sponsored climate conference will convene in Paris in December. Representatives of the two sides will try again to reach a compromise that will actually reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.

Decoded Science wishes them luck.

Climate Change Driving Decline In Arctic Sea Ice Coverage; Results In Record Low Extent For Winter. Ice Retreat Proceeding Faster Than Models Expect

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2015 at 2:19 pm
Melting sea ice off western Alaska, on February 4, 2014. Alaska lies to the east in this image, and Russia to the west. The Bering Strait, covered with ice, lies between to two. South of the Bering Strait, the waters are known as the Bering Sea. To the north lies the Chukchi Sea. Melting sea ice off western Alaska, on February 4, 2014

Melting sea ice off western Alaska. Photograph: MODIS/Aqua/NASA

Oldspeak: This seems to be a recurring theme in the scientific analysis of this ever-accelerating extinction event. The rate of change is underestimated by climate models. Probably due to the fact that the models don’t include all the factors that are contributing to the changes. In all probability, there are factors we have no idea about that are yielding impacts that are unknown to us. Considering this in the context that “We are experiencing change 200 to 300 times faster than any of the previous major extinction events.“, makes this reality all the more dire, uncertain and unpredictable. In my view, the Achilles Heel in our scientific analysis of this event is attempting to study everything separately. Failing to account for the interconnectedness of All. Using the same science and technology that created the problem in an attempt to understand it. An exercise in futility, when it all comes down to it.” -OSJ

Arctic sea ice has hit a record low for its maximum extent in winter, which scientists said was a result of climate change and abnormal weather patterns.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) said on Thursday that at its peak the ice covered just over 14.5m sq km of the northern seas. This was 130,000 sq km smaller than the previous lowest maximum in 2011.

The peak occurred on 25 February, which the NSIDC’s senior research scientist Ted Scambos said was “very early but not unprecedented”.

Climate change is driving declining ice coverage in the Arctic, with a recent study finding it has also become significantly thinner, down 65% since 1975.

Scambos said northern oceans have progressively warmed because of climate change. This winter, the warmer seas combined with mild weather to create exceptionally poor conditions for the annual freeze.

“[The record low extent] is significant, in that it shows that the Arctic is being seriously impacted by our warming climate,” said Scambos. “In general, sea ice retreat has proceeded faster than modelling expects in the Arctic, although models are catching up.”

Bob Ward, at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE, said: “This is further evidence that global warming and its impacts have not stopped despite the inaccurate and misleading claims of climate change ‘sceptics’.

“Over the past few weeks, there has been an increase in the amount of misinformation from climate change ‘sceptics’ in the UK and elsewhere which is intended to mislead the public and policy-makers into believing that the effects of global warming on the polar regions are absent or negligible.”

The most pronounced deviation from the 1981-2010 average cover was in the Bering and Okhotsk seas in the northern Pacific. There, the ice edge was 100-200km further north than in a normal year.

After March the summer thaw will begin, with the ice retreating towards its summer minimum, which usually occurs in September. The summer ice cover in the Arctic is also on a long-term decline, although Scambos says a low winter maximum does not necessarily indicate a low minimum is on the way.

The loss of ice from the Arctic has raised questions over when the region will experience its first ice-free summer. Scambos said he expects the summer minimum to dip below 1m sq km (386,100 sq miles) within the next 15 years. At this stage, he said, the Arctic will be profoundly changed.

“A less than 1m sq km summer would mean that the north pole would be open water, that a broad seaway would exist north of Siberia and that major ecosystems and fauna would be severely impacted. My own guess is that we will reach this level around 2030.”

The absence of sea ice and abnormally mild weather affects communities and wildlife in the Arctic circle, which are adapted to extreme conditions.

In Svalbard, Kim Holmén, the international director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, said the fjords there remained unfrozen and instead of the normal snowfall the island experienced rain which froze when it hit the ground.

“Much of Svalbard is covered with ice on land, which is a fatal state for the reindeer. When the landscape is covered by ice they can’t move around and they can’t eat.”

Too much ice on the land and none in the sea has also made life difficult for the 2,600 people who live on Svalbard.

“This iced landscape is miserable to travel across on your snowmobile and your skis,” said Holmén. “We can’t ride our snowmobiles across the fjord so there are places where people want to go that they can’t go. We have had tragic events with avalanches. Living in Svalbard we’ve always had avalanches but we’ve had one casualty this winter. Some of the risks are changing because we have more icing events.”

He said this type of weather is expected to become normal under a changing climate.

“This winter is an example of what we believe will become more common and has profound influence on the reindeer and the ptarmigan [a species of bird] and other creatures that roam the land,” he said.

This week, on the opposite side of the Arctic Ocean, Alaska’s Iditarod sled race was forced to shift its start 362km (225 miles) further north due to a lack of snow. This has only happened once before in the race’s 43-year history, in 2003.

Meanwhile, the NSIDC said ice floes surrounding Antarctica reached a relatively high summer minimum on 20 February. The extent of ice was 1.38m sq km, the fourth largest on record. Antarctic sea ice has confounded some scientific modelling by growing in recent years. There are several theories why the extent of the ice is growing despite a general warming trend across the southern continent.

“This is a matter of considerable debate,” said Scambos. “The important thing to say is that the Antarctic is most definitely seeing the effects of warming and circulation changes – it is participating in ‘global warming’ in its own way. There are several effects in play. Primarily it seems that increased strength in low-pressure areas near the Ross and Weddell seas are pushing ice outward from the continent.”