Alaska Bakes In Heat Wave While Arctic Sea Ice Continues To Melt
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The Arctic is experiencing a heat wave.
Alaska reached temperatures in the 80s, with Deadhorse reaching a record-high temperature of 85 degrees on Wednesday evening. Other cities including Bettles and Eagle reached 85, Fort Yukon hit 84, and Nenana reported 87.
“A pulse of warm air invaded the North Slope of northern Alaska on Wednesday, bringing some of the warmest air ever recorded there,” meteorologist Jeff Masters explained on his blog, Weather Underground. “Even with the 24-hour sunlight it receives during most of July, the North Slope typically experiences highs only in the 50s and lows in the 30s.”
Fairbanks also officially reported 87, but one record showed Fairbanks’ airport reaching 96 degrees Wednesday. Meanwhile hundreds of miles south in Orlando, Fl., temperatures reached 94 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Miami and Daytona Beach only rose to 92 on Wednesday.
Temperatures in Fairbanks could reach 90 degrees on Thursday or Friday, National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Thoman reported to the Alaska Dispatch News.
Just last month, Deadhorse tied its record-high temperature at 82 degrees. The previous record followed a heatwave — deadly depending what part of the country you were in. Phoenix rose to 118 degrees, Yuma climbed to 120, and Palm Springs, Calif., reached 119 during the heatwave last week.
Early this week, there were concerns over an increase of wildfires due to high temperatures and a decrease in humidity. A day after those concerns were reported, two new fires broke out on Wednesday. For one fire, the temperature was 78 degrees with 50 percent relative humidity, reported Daily News-Miner, a local news source in Fairbanks.
Alaska’s records are just warming up for another heatwave, which is expected to spread across the rest of the country next week as well. Most states are likely to see temperatures above 90 degrees and into the 100s.
Meanwhile, the Arctic is experiencing other records reflecting the impacts of higher and higher temperatures. In June, average Arctic sea ice extent reached a record low, according to theNational Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The sea ice extended to around 4.09 million square miles — which was 100,000 square miles less than the previous low record in 2010.
March is the only month in 2016 that has not set a record low for sea ice. It was second behind the March 2015 record.
The sea ice is not only shrinking in area, but thinning as well. During late April and early May, aircraft missions found that, in general, ice thickness from the Alaskan coast of the Beaufort Sea up to the North Pole were seven to 10 feet. Several locations showed ice thickness of five feet, which was representative of first-year ice, and other locations were as thick as 16 feet. These variations are suggest a “broken up and variegated ice pack” mixed with thick multiyear ice and thinner first-year ice, as described by the NSIDC.
Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading, created a GIF showing the Arctic sea volume growth since 1979. While there are points when the sea ice volume actually increases, the overwhelming trend shows the volume decreases since the 1970s.
Record-high temperatures and record-low sea ice are becoming more and more normal — as every month seems to break a new record. January to March of 2016 was the hottest on record — the second highest three-month start temperatures were just set in 2015.
Greenland also set records in April. Temperatures reached as high as 64 degrees, but even weather stations on the actual ice sheet saw temperatures at 37.6 degrees. If Greenland’s land-locked ice melts, it alone could raise sea levels by 20 feet.