Arctic On Thin Ice – The Thinnest Ever Recorded

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NASA Arctic Sea Ice

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While climate extremes wreaked havoc on the globe, the World Meteorological Organization announced today ice in the Arctic has hit the lowest level ever recorded.

In 2008 the global average temperature was recorded at 14.3 degrees Celsius (57.7 degrees Fahrenheit) which was cool enough to be the coldest on record this century, however the direction is still towards a warmer climate.

The WMO said the slowdown in climate warming this year was due to a moderate to strong LaNina in the Pacific in late 2007.
However they also caution “this decade is almost 0.2 degrees (Celsius) warmer compared to the previous decade. We have to look at it that way, comparing decades not years” said Peter Stott a climate scientist at Britain’s Hadley Centre which provided data for the WMO report.

In Canada’s far north ancient ice shelves off of Ellesmere Island in the Arctic Ocean, a quarter of the ancient ice shelves have previously collapsed added to earlier meltdowns reducing ice cover in the region from 9,000 square km a century ago to just over 1000 square km.

La Nina and El Nino’s are Pacific weather patterns that have effects all around the world, depending whether the Pacific ocean warms – El Nino – or if it cools – La Nina. The two weather patterns alternate at irregular intervals with each other.

“What is happening in the Arctic is one of the key indicators of global warming” said Michel Jarraud, Secretary General of the WMO. “The overall trend is still upwards” he added.

In 2008 “climate extremes including devastating floods, severe and persistent droughts, snow storms, heat waves, and cold waves were recorded in many parts of the world” the WMO said in a recent press release. It is estimated that in many of these events hundreds or even thousands of people died.

Among the disasters was Cyclone Nargis, which claimed over 78,000 people in the southern delta region of Myanmar. In the western Atlantic and Caribbean there were 16 major tropical storms, eight resulting in hurricanes.

In an average year there are 11 storms, of which six become hurricanes and two become major hurricanes. In 2008, five major hurricanes developed, and for the first on record, six tropical storms in a row made landfall in the United States.

  • Mark Spowart

    A writer and photographer, Spowart has publication credits in Canada, United States, Europe and Norway with such publications as The Globe & Mail, The National Post, Sun Media, Canwest News, and Canada News Wire.

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