In this blog post, we will be discussing the latest news and updates from the Arctic and Antarctic regions in the past 6 months.
Starting with the June 2023 updates from the Met Office on the Arctic and Antarctic, it is important to stay informed about these regions as they are critical components of global circulation patterns. Changes in these regions can have far-reaching effects on weather patterns around the world, including heatwaves (National Snow and Ice Data Center, n.d). Keeping up-to-date with these developments can aid our understanding of the world and how it is changing due to global warming.
Summer 2023 Arctic sea ice extent is below average levels seen for this time of year
According to the Met Office update, the Arctic sea ice extent is below the average for this time of year. Using data from Fetterer et al., (2017), the update stated the extent was 0.67 million square kilometres below the 1981-2010 average but 0.56 million square kilometres higher than the lowest 2016 value.
The Arctic has warmed faster than the rest of the world due to the albedo effect. This refers to a phenomenon where a reduction in ice cover increases the temperature in the Arctic due to a change in the reflective surface from white ice to dark sea. As a result, the Greenland ice cap is melting, which is impacting local Arctic wildlife and indigenous peoples.
Source: (Andre, J. 2019)
The Antarctic ice extent is the lowest seen on record
The same update painted a similar picture for the Antarctic, however, the sea ice in this area was the lowest value on record. According to the update, the Antarctic ice extent has been at record low levels since December 2022 but has been below the average since 2016. Scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (2023) stated, this high rate of melting has been attributed by different scientists as being due to unusually high air temperatures and strong winds in the Antarctic Peninsula, which accelerates sea ice melting.
It’s not all bad news!
On a more positive note, an article published by the Carbon Brief in March 2023 (Tandon, 2023) provided us with some hope! The article delved into a study by England and Polvani (2023) about the Montreal Protocol, an agreement involving 200 countries to reduce emissions of ozone gases. The study found that the protocol averted 0.5°C of global warming and half a million kilometres of Arctic summer sea ice loss. The author of the study told the Carbon Brief that these findings are a source of hope to encourage that climate action is possible! This should be a lesson to us all that we should raise awareness and keep taking action to conserve the ice on Earth.
Other Arctic news
It’s important to delve into other aspects of the Arctic to get the whole picture. Here is some recent news found from recent Arctic research.
Toxic chemicals found in Norwegian Arctic ice, May 2023
According to an article published recently by The Guardian (Hartz et al. 2023), 26 types of toxic chemicals (PFAS) have been found in ice in Svalbard, Norway. These chemicals come from consumer products such as non-stick pans and carpets and are considered ‘forever chemicals’ as they don’t break down naturally. When the ice melts, these chemicals will move into other ecosystems such as the tundra, polluting the environments and animals along the food chain, including polar bears, seals and fish.
Research finds the new shipping channels opened up by Arctic ice melt may be disrupted by fog, April 2023
A study by Song et al. (2023) was delved into by The Guardian (2023) which determined the trade impacts of melting ice in the Arctic. This study reveals that the new shipping channels, resulting from the melting of Arctic ice due to climate change, will give rise to elevated levels of fog. This fog is predicted to significantly hamper shipping activities in the region, subsequently affecting global trade and commerce. According to the study, increased fog by 2100 could extend travel time along the Northwest Passage by 3 days, increasing the probability of collisions with icebergs, which may negate trade opportunities from the new route.
In this post, we have discovered the most recent news from the Arctic and Antarctic regions, revealing that polar areas are experiencing ice extents lower than the historical averages. Notably, the Antarctic is experiencing unprecedented ice loss while melting ice in the Arctic is opening new shipping routes projected to cause elevated levels of fog, which has been predicted to disrupt navigation throughout these routes.
Additionally, the Arctic is experiencing alarming changes including the detection of toxic chemicals found in the ice, which are said to be derived from common consumer products. These findings are likely to have potential downstream implications for the ecosystem.
Despite the challenges, there is reason for optimism. Due to its effective global cooperation and action, the Montreal Protocol has been effective in mitigating the impacts of global warming. We must continue to take action in our fight against climate change.
Here is a reminder of things you can do to be an environmentally conscious citizen:
- Use public transport or walk instead of taking the car
- Adopt a more plant-based diet
- Talk about environmental issues with your peers to raise awareness
- Write letters to organisations and local governments to demand more action on climate change in your local area
Thanks for reading!
Andre, J. (2019). Scenic Photo Of Iceberg During Daytime. Pexels. Available at: https://www.pexels.com/photo/scenic-photo-of-iceberg-during-daytime-2616342/
Carrington, D. (2023) ‘Extreme situation’: Antarctic Sea Ice Hits record low (2023) The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/feb/15/antarctic-sea-ice-hits-record-low-climate-crisis
Carrington, D. (2023) Too late now to save Arctic Summer Ice, climate scientists find (2023) The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jun/06/too-late-now-to-save-arctic-summer-ice-climate-scientists-find
England, M.R. and Polvani, L.M. (2023) ‘The Montreal Protocol is delaying the occurrence of the first ice-free Arctic Summer’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(22). doi:10.1073/pnas.2211432120.
Hartz, W.F. et al. (2023) ‘Levels and distribution profiles of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in a high arctic Svalbard ice core’, Science of The Total Environment, 871, p. 161830. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.161830.
Met Office (2023), Briefing on Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice – June 2023. Available at: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/approach/monitoring/sea-ice/2023/briefing-on-arctic-and-antarctic-sea-ice—june-2023
National Snow and Ice Data Center (2023) Arctic weather and climate (no date). Available at: https://nsidc.org/learn/parts-cryosphere/arctic-weather-and-climate
Perkins, T. (2023) Alarming levels of PFAS in Norwegian Arctic ice pose a new risk to wildlife The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/feb/11/pfas-norwegian-arctic-ice-wildlife-risk-stressor
Rantanen, M. et al. (2022) ‘The Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the globe since 1979’, Communications Earth & Environment, 3(1). doi:10.1038/s43247-022-00498-3.
Ravilious, K. (2023) Foggy future for arctic shipping as sea ice melts (2023) The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2023/jun/01/foggy-future-arctic-shipping-sea-ice-melts-global-warming-travel
Song, S. et al. (2023) ‘Adapting to a foggy future along trans‐arctic shipping routes’, Geophysical Research Letters, 50(8). doi:10.1029/2022gl102395.
Tandon, A. (2023) Montreal Protocol has slowed loss of Arctic sea ice, say scientists, Carbon Brief. Available at: https://www.carbonbrief.org/montreal-protocol-has-slowed-loss-of-arctic-sea-say-scientists/