You’ll never guess what’s happening to the Arctic sea ice. That’s right – it’s crashed to a new record low for the month of June. The extent was a depressing 260,000 square kilometers (100,000 square miles) below the prior nadir for June, which was set in 2010.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this is 1.36 million square kilometers (525,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average. March is the only month in 2016 that has so far not set the record low for Arctic sea ice extent – it was, though, the second-lowest.
This is all despite the fact that, for the first half of June, the rates of ice loss were surprisingly slow. Still, ice loss per day in June was still a rather remarkable 56,900 square kilometers (22,000 square miles), which means that a chunk of ice the size of Cuba has been disappearing every two days.
Arctic sea ice extent as of July 5, 2016, compared to the last few years and the long-term average. National Snow and Ice Data Center
The Arctic is in serious trouble thanks to man-made climate change and a series of destructive atmospheric and oceanic cycles – more so than almost anywhere else on the planet, perhaps save for the deserts near the equator. Snow and ice cover there is melting at its earliest ever dates, at the winters are getting increasingly warmer. The amount of anomalously warm days over the last year have been literally off the charts.
Ocean currents are preferentially transporting warm water towards the Arctic and consequently speeding up sea ice loss and ice shelf collapse. Worse still, a phenomenon known as Arctic Amplification is leading to an acceleration in the rate of northern latitude warming itself.
Arctic sea ice is one of the most reflective things on the planet. By deflecting incoming solar radiation back into space, the world warms far less than it should. Ultimately, if the Paris climate change agreement isn’t kept to, the Arctic will warm a dramatic 20°C (68°F) by the 22nd century. This will almost certainly obliterate the entire extent of the Arctic sea ice, the world will no longer have its high-latitude, icy shield to protect it, and global warming will pick up speed yet again.