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Arctic Temperatures Rise: Sea Ice Cover Sets Record Low For January

11 February 2017, 6:15 am EST By Alyssa Navarro Tech Times
Arctic sea ice has set another record low for January as temperatures in the region continue to rise. A scientist says the warming event in the Arctic is a "chicken-egg" phenomenon.  ( Joe Raedle | Getty Images )

Temperatures in the Arctic have once again risen, setting another record low for the region's sea ice cover this season, a new study has revealed.

The frigid Arctic is experiencing unprecedented high temperatures and mild weather this winter, the third extreme weather-warming event for the region since November 2016, scientists said.

Extreme Weather In The Arctic

Data suggests that temperatures in the Arctic region, especially those located above 80 degrees north latitude, were more than 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than the average temperature during this time of the year.

"If you look at where sea-ice extent is right now, we're at a record low, compared to the remainder of the satellite record that goes back to 1979," said Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado.

Serreze and his colleagues at the center reported that Arctic sea ice in January has averaged just more than 5 million square miles, about 100,000 square miles less than January 2016. It's also about half a million square miles less than the average for January over the past 38 years, researchers said.

What Feeds The Warming Event?

Experts believe several factors contribute to the warming event in the Arctic, including the interactions between warm air and sea ice in the region, as well as the continuous march of climate change.

In fact, Serreze said, a low-pressure storm system that carries warm air to the north may be causing the pronounced lack of sea ice in the Atlantic side of the Arctic.

What's happening in the Arctic could just be the usual variability in climate, scientists said.

Kent Moore, a physics expert from University of Toronto and was not involved in the Colorado study, said some low-pressure storms typically pass through the Atlantic.

However, Serreze and his colleagues also suspect that sea ice loss itself is driving the storm system.

It's a "chicken-egg thing," Serreze said. The Arctic has less ice because it's warm, and it's warm in the Arctic because there's less ice.

Meanwhile, Moore said anomalous warming events have been recorded in the Arctic since the 1950s, but they only occur once or twice every 10 years.

He believes that as sea ice moves north, a large reservoir of heat forms over the Atlantic. And as sea ice loss continues, the reservoir of heat moves closer to the pole, said Moore.

Warming events such as the one above may be short-lived, added Moore. This means the warming event may not persist for more than a few days. Still, the increase in temperature extremes in the North Pole may indicate the disproportionate effect of climate change in the region.

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