While global temperature tracking is suggesting 2016 will follow 2014 and 2015 as the warmest year on record, the effects are acute and immediate in the Canadian Arctic where climate change has already warmed more than twice the global average.
This warming is having a dramatic effect on Arctic sea ice, with reports of both low geographic coverage and low total thickness.
Ocean Networks Canada’s (ONC) Cambridge Bay observatory has been monitoring ocean conditions in the Canadian Arctic since 2012, and sea ice measurements also show these trends. Temperatures over the last two weeks in November were in the -5 to -10˚C range, which in previous years has typically been -15 to -20˚C.
While the start of sea ice growth in October was not significantly delayed, the rate of growth is very slow. Sea ice over the Cambridge Bay underwater observatory is typically more than 50 centimetres thick by early December, while this year it is only 25 centimetres.
Of note is that by early November 2016, global sea ice concentration was more than 10% lower than any other year, standing clear and distinct from the trends and records from all earlier estimates.
ONC continues to monitor Arctic sea ice conditions as part of Safe Passage, a collaborative project supported by Polar Knowledge Canada. Discussion about monitoring climate change in the Arctic will continue at the ArcticNet Annual Science Meeting in Winnipeg, 5-9 December 2016.