The Arctic is experiencing extraordinarily hot sea surface and air temperatures which are stopping ice forming and could lead to record lows of sea ice at the north pole next year, according to scientists. Danish and US researchers monitoring satellites and Arctic weather stations are surprised and alarmed by air temperatures peaking at what they say is an unheard of 20 C higher than normal for the time of year. In addition, sea temperatures averaging nearly 4 C higher than usual in October and November. “It’s been about 20 C warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean, along with cold anomalies of about the same magnitude over north-central Asia. This is unprecedented for November,” said research professor Jennifer Francis of Rutgers university. Temperatures have been only a few degrees above freezing when - 25 C should be expected, according to Francis. “These temperatures are literally off the charts for where they should be at this time of year. It is pretty shocking. The Arctic has been breaking records all year. It is exciting but also scary,” she said. Francis said the near-record low sea ice extent this summer had led to a warmer than usual autumn. That in turn had reduced the temperature difference between the Arctic and mid-latitudes. “This helped make the jet stream wavier and allowed more heat and moisture to be driven into Arctic latitudes and perpetuate the warmth. It’s a vicious circle she added.”  Sea ice, which forms and melts each year, has declined more than 30% in the past 25 years. This week it has been at the lowest extent ever recorded for late November. According to the US government’s National Snow and Ice Data Centre, around 2 million square kilometres less ice has formed since September than average. The level is far below the same period in 2012, when sea ice went on to record its lowest ever annual level. Rasmus Tonboe, a sea ice remote sensing expert at the Danish Meteorological Institute in Copenhagen, said: “Sea surface temperatures in the Kara and Barents seas are much warmer than usual. That makes it very difficult for sea ice to freeze. When we have large areas of open water, it also raises air temperatures, and it has been up to 10 to 15 C warmer. Six months ago the sea ice was breaking up unusually early. This made more open water and allowed the sunlight to be absorbed, which is why the Arctic is warmer this year,” he said.


National Snow and Ice Data Centre: At the end of November and through the first week of December 2019, daily extent was tracking third lowest in the satellite record, behind 2006 and 2016. Average ice extent for the month, however, finished second lowest in the passive microwave satellite record at 9.33 million square kilometres (3.60 million square miles). This was 670,000 square kilometres (259,000 square miles) above the 2016 record low for the month and 1.37 million square kilometres (529,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average. Regionally, extent remains well below average in the Chukchi Sea, as well as in Hudson Bay and Davis Strait. Extent is also below average in the Barents Sea, but not as pronounced as has been observed in recent years. Ice now extends to the shore along most of the Russian Arctic and along the coast of the Beaufort Sea. Extent is near average in the East Greenland Sea.

The consequences will be that more heat will be absorbed into the atmosphere and sea levels will raise due to the release of fresh water from the melting ice sheet  the polar front jet stream will become more wavy and methane will increase due to the thawing of the permafrost. Winters will change and get warmer and wetter in the Northern Hemisphere.    

The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada USA Russia Greenland Norway Finland Sweden and Iceland. The area can be defined as north of the Arctic Circle the approximate southern limit of the midnight sun and the polar night. The United States government has legislatively defined the Arctic as "all United States and foreign territory north of the Arctic Circle and all United States territory north and west of the boundary formed by the Porcupine Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers all contiguous seas including the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort Bering and Chukchi Seas and the Aleutian chain." The Arctic contains around 10% of the world’s fresh water in the form of ice and is a giant reflector of sunlight back into space helping to keep the region and the Northern Hemisphere cool and our global climate stable. 

Arctic Research Programme - Arctic Report Card  for 2020

Issued annually since 2006, the Arctic Report Card is a timely and peer-reviewed source for clear, reliable and concise environmental information on the current state of different components of the Arctic environmental system relative to historical records. The Report Card is intended for a wide audience, including scientists, teachers, students, governments and the general public interested in the Arctic environment and science.

The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level. Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20 C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.“The warning signals are getting louder,” said Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of the report.

The National Weather Service is an agency of the United States federal government that is tasked with providing weather forecasts warnings of hazardous weather and other weather-related products to organisations and the public for the purposes of protection safety and general information. The agency was known as the United States Weather Bureau from 1890 until it adopted its current name in 1970.

Global Climate Change: Arctic sea ice reaches its minimum each September. September Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 12.85 percent per decade, relative to the 1981 to 2010 average.

Arctic and North Atlantic Administration  38 Union Street  Grantham Lincolnshire NG31 6NZ UK

28 September 2021 : The White House is reactivating the Arctic Executive Steering Committee which coordinates domestic regulations and works with other Arctic nations. It also is adding six new members to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission.

Update 22 September 2021 : Arctic sea ice has likely reached its minimum extent for the year, at 4.72 million square kilometers (1.82 million square miles) on September 16, 2021, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder. The 2021 minimum is the twelfth lowest in the nearly 43-year satellite record. The last 15 years are the lowest 15 sea ice extents in the satellite record.