The Arctic Lost US-Sized Sea Ice in 2012
The UN’s World Meteorological Organisation has released it’s provisional annual statement on the state of the global climate and it shows that, if things keep going as they have for the first 10 months of the year, 2012 will join the ranks of warmest years on record that have been filled by the years 2001 to 2011.
The same report also highlighted the catastrophic loss of ice in the Arctic Sea this year; a loss of 11.83 million square kilometres, an area nearly the size of India, or for those of you with a more US-centric bent, larger than your entire country.
So far the January to October period of 2012 has been the ninth warmest such period since recordkeeping began back in 1850 (which makes you wonder if whether in 1848 or something they finally decided to start keeping records, but waited until 1850 because they thought we’d enjoy having such a nice round number). The global land and ocean surface temperature for the period in question was about 0.45°C (0.81°F) above the 1961–1990 average of 14.2°C.
All of this despite the year starting with the cooling influence of a La Niña, which had developed in October 2011.
“Naturally occurring climate variability due to phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña impact on temperatures and precipitation on a seasonal to annual scale,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “But they do not alter the underlying long-term trend of rising temperatures due to climate change as a result of human activities.”
Shifting from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice melt, the Arctic reached its lowest annual sea ice extent on the 16th of September, dropping to only 3.41 million square kilometres, a figured 18 percent less than the previous record low of 18 September 2007.
For more coverage on the 2012 record breaking low, head on over to our coverage;
“The extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low. The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere. Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records.”
The full 10-year report entitled “2001-2010, A Decade of Extremes” will be released on the 4th of December, but the WMO have provided some highlights;
During the first ten months of 2012, above-average temperatures affected most of the globe’s land surface areas, most notably North America (warmest on record for contiguous United States of America), southern Europe, western and central Russia and northwestern Asia. Much of South America and Africa experienced above average temperatures during the first ten months of the year, with the most anomalous warmth across parts of northern Argentina and northern Africa. Much of Asia had above-average temperatures, with cooler-than-average conditions across parts of northern China. South Asia and the Pacific were also predominantly warmer than normal, except for Australia.
Extremes: Notable extreme events were observed worldwide, but some parts of the Northern Hemisphere were affected by multiple extremes during January–October 2012.
- Heat waves: Major heat waves impacted the Northern Hemisphere during the year, with the most notable in March–May across the continental United States of America and Europe. Warm spells during March 2012 resulted in many record-breaking temperatures in Europe and nearly 15,000 new daily records across the USA. Russia witnessed the second warmest summer on record after 2010. Numerous temperature records were broken in Morocco in summer.
- Drought: According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly two-thirds of the continental United States (65.5 percent) was considered to be in moderate to exceptional drought on 25 September 2012. Drought conditions impacted parts of western Russia and western Siberia during June and July, and Southeast Europe, the Balkans and some Mediterranean countries during summer. In China, the Yunnan and southwestern Sichuan province experienced severe drought during winter and spring. Northern Brazil witnessed the worst drought in 50 years. The April–October precipitation total, in Australia was 31 percent below normal.
- Floods: Many parts of western Africa and the Sahel, including Niger and Chad, suffered serious flooding between July and September because of a very active monsoon. Heavy rainfall from the end of July through early October prompted exceptional floods across Nigeria. Parts of southern China experienced their heaviest rainfall in the last 32 years in April and May. Devastating monsoonal floods impacted Pakistan during September. Central and parts of northern Argentina suffered from record rainfall and flooding in August, and parts of Colombia were affected by heavy precipitation for most of the year.
- Snow and Extreme Cold: A cold spell on the Eurasian continent from late January to mid-February was notable for its intensity, duration, and impact. Across eastern Russia, temperatures ranged between -45°C to -50°C during the end of January. Several areas of eastern Europe reported minimum temperatures as low as -30°C, with some areas across northern Europe and central Russia experiencing temperatures below -40°C.
Tropical Cyclones: Global tropical cyclone activity for the first ten months was near the 1981–2010 average of 85 storms, with a total of 81 storms (wind speeds greater or equal than 34 knots, or 63 kilometers per hour). The Atlantic basin experienced an above-average hurricane season for a third consecutive year with a total of 19 storms, with ten reaching hurricane status, the most notably being Sandy, which wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and the USA East Coast. Throughout the year, East Asia was severely impacted by powerful typhoons. Typhoon Sanba was the strongest cyclone, globally, to have formed in 2012. Sanba impacted the Philippines, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula, dumping torrential rain and triggering floods and landslides that affected thousands of people and caused millions in U.S. dollars in damage.