The planet lost more Arctic sea ice than the area of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh combined in 2021

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The planet lost more Arctic sea ice than the area of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh combined in 2021
Data visualization showing the ice extent at its 2021 maximum, which occurred on March 21.NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
  • The Arctic’s winter sea ice in 2021 is the seventh lowest on record, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • This year’s ‘annual maximum’ fell short of the average by the combined area of two of the largest states in India — Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
  • This is further evidence that the Arctic region is warming three times faster than the rest of the planet.
  • Earth lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice between 1994 and 2017 and the single biggest loss came from Arctic Sea ice at a whopping 7.6 trillion tonnes.
Ice melts in the summer and comes back around in the winter. But the Arctic is losing more ice than it can recover. In 2021, the maximum level of winter sea ice is the seventh lowest on record, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The planet lost more Arctic sea ice than the area of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh combined in 2021
Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its maximum extent on March 21, 2021, tying for seventh lowest in the 43-year satellite recordNational Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC)

Every year, sea ice regrows during the winter months to recuperate what was lost during the summer months and, in March, the level of sea ice reaches its ‘annual maximum’.

This year, the ‘annual maximum’ is 880,000 square kilometres short of the average recorded between 1981 to 2010. That’s more than the combined area of two of the largest states in India, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
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The Arctic is warming up three times faster than the rest of the planet


The development comes after the second-lowest sea ice minimum was recorded during the summer of 2020 alongside record-breaking wildfires in the Siberian Arctic. Last year was also the hottest on record.

The fact that the Arctic isn’t able to freeze ice fast enough is only testament to the fact that the northern pole is warming up three times faster than the rest of the planet.

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RankYearAnnual maximum sea ice in the Arctic (million square kilometres)
1201714.41
2201814.47
32016201514.5114.52
52011200614.6714.68
72007202114.7714.77
9201914.82
10200514.95
Source: National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC)

A study conducted by scientists at the University of Leeds revealed that the rate at which ice is disappearing across the planet is speeding up. Their findings show that Earth lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice between 1994 and 2017.

And the single biggest loss came from Arctic Sea ice at a whopping 7.6 trillion tonnes.

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“The ice sheets are now following the worst-case climate warming scenarios.”

Thomas Slater, a Research Fellow at Leeds’ Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling

The ‘Last Ice Area’ is getting warmer and weaker


The oldest and the thickest ice in the Arctic Ocean is dubbed the ‘Last Ice Area’ by scientists. It lies between Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

The planet lost more Arctic sea ice than the area of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh combined in 2021
The Last Ice AreaWorld Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Canada

The stretch of Arctic ice is pegged to have the best chance of surviving the climate change crisis. However, a study published in Nature Communications speculates that it is at risk of disappearing altogether.
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Ice arches are key patches of ice that form seasonally and prevent other pieces of ice from entering warmer waters. They can be found along the Nares Strait, which is 40 kilometres wide and 600 kilometres long. And satellite data suggests that they are weakening.

The risk is that this old ice will not just melt in place, but also break up and drift southwards into warmer regions, speeding up the melting process.

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