It felt pretty cold down here at latitude 37 degrees, which gave the climate deniers on Capitol Hill plenty of grist for superficial cracks about global warming. But perhaps they should take a look at the top of the world, where January saw the lowest ever recorded extent of Arctic sea ice.
This image shows the average Arctic sea ice concentration for January 2011, based on observations from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite. Blue indicates open water; white indicates high sea ice concentrations; and turquoise indicates loosely packed sea ice. The yellow line shows the average sea ice extent for January from 1979 through 2000.
NSIDC reported that ice extent was unusually low in Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, and Davis Strait in the early winter. Normally frozen over by late November, these areas did not completely freeze until mid-January 2011. The Labrador Sea was also unusually ice-free.
The shrinking of the polar ice cap is a fascinating story, with untold implications for species, the environment, and human culture and economies. I’m hoping to do some reporting on it very soon.