Shocking Images Released By NOAA Show Just How Little Ice Is In The Bering Sea Right Now

If you want to see climate change in action, just look to the Bering Sea.

Right now, it should be at peak ice cover, reaching its maximum ice extent for the entire year. But as these two images released by NOAA highlight, what constitutes as peak ice cover has changed quite drastically in just the last five years. 

Ice coverage between the Bering Strait and the coast of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in the most recent photo is, at best, scant. This, says NASA, could soon be the "new normal". 

Climate specialist Rick Thoman, from the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said that this year's maximum ice extent is the lowest on record. Lower, even, than 2018's – which, at the time, was deemed "unprecedented". 

As IFLScience reported at the time, ice cover at the end of April 2018 was at a measly 10 percent of normal seasonal levels.

In contrast, the image taken in 2014 shows considerably more ice coverage. According to NOAA, data collected by the National Snow and Ice Data Center show the ice extent for 2014 was fairly typical, reaching a peak on March 21.

So, what is the cause of this decline? Scientists are still working on finding an answer but experts say it is likely the product of exceptionally warm summers and autumns in the Bering and southern Chukchi seas, with temperatures rising to "near or at record" temperatures since 2014. This postpones the winter freeze-over.

The situation was exacerbated by a stormy January-March period, which caused some of the thinner ice to melt. 

As recent studies have shown, the Arctic Circle is experiencing some of the sharpest increases in warmer weather worldwide.

Last month was the warmest March on record for large swathes of Alaska, with temperatures topping 21°C (70°F) earlier than ever before (on March 19, in Klawock). The state saw 55 records for daily highs tied or broken – and that was just up to March 23.

Meanwhile, things over in Canada aren't looking much better. A report recently conducted by the federal government found that parts of the country are warming at twice the speed of the rest of the world, the Canadian Arctic witnessing the deepest impact.

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