location where, on May 3, 2016, it was 26.0°C (or 78.8°F). At a nearby location, it was 27.6°C (or 81.8°F) on May 3, 2016. Both locations are indicated on the map on the right.
These location are on the path followed by the Mackenzie River, which ends up in the Arctic Ocean. Wildfires aggravate heat waves as they blacken the soil with soot. As the Mackenzie River heats up, it will bring warmer water into the Arctic Ocean where this will speed up melting of the sea ice.
Moreover, winds can carry soot high up into the Arctic, where it can settle on the sea ice and darken the surface, which will make that more sunlight gets absorbed, rather than reflected back into space as before.
Extreme weather is becoming increasingly common, as changes are taking place to the jet stream. As the Arctic warms up more rapidly than the rest of the world, the temperature difference between the Equator and the North Pole decreases, which in turn weakens the speed at which the north polar jet stream circumnavigates the globe.
This is illustrated by the wavy patterns of the jet stream in the image on the right, showing the situation on May 3, 2016 (00:00 UTC), with a loop bringing warm air high up into North America and into the Arctic.
In conclusion, warm air reaching high latitudes is causing the sea ice to melt in a number of ways:
- Warm air makes the ice melt directly.
- Warmer water in rivers warms up the Arctic Ocean.
- Wildfires black land and sea ice, causing more sunlight to be absorbed, rather than reflected back into space as before.
|[ click on images to enlarge ]|
Further decline of the snow and ice cover in the Arctic looks set to make a number of feedbacks kick in stronger, with methane releases from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean looming as a huge danger.
NSIDC scientist Andrew Slater has created the chart below of freezing degree days in 2016 compared to other years at Latitude 80°N. See Andrew's website and this page for more on this.