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expert reaction to NSIDC announcing Arctic sea ice minimum for 2016

The US-based National Snow and Ice Data Center has reported that Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its minimum extent for this year which would mean a tie for second lowest in the satellite record.


Prof. Chris Rapley, Professor of Climate Science at UCL, said:

“The Arctic is a bellwether for climate change. Temperature shifts are amplified there. It’s a key piece of the planetary machinery that connects to us all.

“Despite a summer in which conditions were generally unfavourable for ice loss, the long-term decline has continued. The ongoing thinning is especially significant. The implications are profound. An increasingly ice-free Arctic is a geo-political game changer, with the Arctic nations jostling for advantage. The economic and ecological consequences of new trade routes opening up have yet to unfold. The impacts on mid-latitude extreme weather are already being felt. The changes that have occurred have been greater and faster than predicted.

“The planet is sending a clear message; time is running out if change is to be limited. In the meantime, we would do well to invest in increasing our resilience; given the inevitable uncertainties, comprehensive planning and adaptive implementation will be key.”


Dr Twila Moon, Lecturer in Cryospheric Sciences at the University of Bristol, said:

“Unfortunately, this tie for the second lowest sea ice extent is not surprising. Arctic sea ice continues to decline as a result of climate change and we can expect further decreases in the future. It’s especially worrying that we’re not only seeing less area of ice, but the ice that remains is also thinner.

“Loss of sea ice has local to global effects, from animals and ecosystems to encouraging further warming by exposing ocean water. We should all be shocked by the dramatic changes happening in the Arctic and I hope we are moved to action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help limit future climate change. It’s critical for plants, animals, and people.”


Prof. Liz Bentley, Chief Executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, said:

“Arctic sea-ice is a critical component of our planetary system. On a local scale it influences the weather, wildlife, and people who live in the Arctic. However the significant reduction of sea ice over the years has been scientifically linked to a number of extreme weather events, but it is fair to say that the jury is still out regarding its impacts on global climate.


Prof. Gail Whiteman, Director of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business, Lancaster University, said:

“Not only is this year’s summer sea ice melt in the Arctic one of the lowest ever on record, but the Arctic winter also had the lowest extent of sea ice. Warm temperatures during the Arctic winter broke records too – with New Year’s Eve well above zero in Svalbard which was a balmy +8C. The systemic repercussions will be global and carry significant economic risks for the global agricultural and insurance sectors.  Forget the FTSE500: the Arctic sea ice is the real barometer of global risk.”


Prof. Andrew Shepherd, Director of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds, said:

“Satellite measurements from CryoSat shows that the Arctic sea ice pack was thinner than usual (186 cm, on average) ahead of this summer’s melting season, and so we could be heading for a record minimum in the total amount of ice given that the extent has dropped so low. But we won’t know for sure until next month, because the ice pack tends to thin for a few more weeks before it starts to refreeze.”


Prof. Julienne Stroeve, Professor of Polar Observation & Modelling at UCL, said:

“Despite setting several record lows for extent this winter and early summer, a cold and stormy summer helped to slow ice loss and keep the extent above that seen during 2012.  But the 10 lowest extents have all occurred within the last decade, reinforcing the long-term trend, which is currently at -14% per decade. This latest measurement further confirms a worrying trend for the Arctic region and for global climate change.”




Declared interests

None declared

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