Arctic sea ice has been rapidly declining since satellites first started tracking it in 1979, and according to NASA, roughly 13.3 percent of the ice disappears every decade. Models have projected that manmade global warming would heat the Arctic faster than it would heat more temperate regions, and observation has borne that out. The Arctic is warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the globe, and the first two months of this year both had the lowest levels of sea ice on historical record.
Farther south, the Bering Sea has emerged as a hot spot for warming-water studies — almost literally. Sea-surface temperatures in the Bering reached 14 degrees Celsius last summer (57 degrees Fahrenheit) and were generally 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal, scientists reported.
Ted Scambos, the lead scientist at NSIDC, said: “Antarctic sea ice really went down the rabbit hole this time.” His colleague Walt Meier, who also works at Nasa, added: “The Arctic has typically been where the most interest lies, but this month, the Antarctic has flipped the script and it is southern sea ice that is surprising us.”
In the vast and chaotic climate systems that govern our atmosphere and oceans, making sense of how one change — diminished sea ice — affects places or people thousands of miles away is a task of such extraordinary complexity that it strains even the most sophisticated supercomputers.