Arctic sea ice extent was at extremely low levels for much of the summer of 2020, setting new records every day during the month of July, at a time when current data reveals the year 2020 will be the warmest year on record.
While this year will be remembered for several reasons, it is now likely that 2020 will also be the warmest year for the Earth’s surface since reliable records began in the mid-1800s, the World Economic Forum reported. This is even more remarkable, as 2020 will lack any major El Niño event – a factor that has contributed to most prior record warm years.
In Arctic, the summer minimum – which typically occurs in late September – was the second lowest on record. The sea ice recovery has also been unusually slow in the Arctic this year, with sea ice in mid-October at record low levels for this time of year.
Meanwhile, Antarctic sea ice extent was close to the long-term average over the first 10 months of 2020.
As a reflection of the unusually warm Arctic summer this year, the barque Sedov became the first sailing vessel to sail through the Northern Sea Route in 150 years, encountering virtually no ice over the course of the voyage along Russia’s Arctic coastline.
This news comes as shipping has been exploring several Arctic routes to save operating time. In its Shipping Review for 2018, Allianz noted that climate change is triggering ice hazards for shipping, opening new trade routes in some areas, while increasing the risk of ice in others.
In the winters of 2018 and 2019, the Bering Sea sea ice cover hit record low not seen in thousands of years, another study revealed in September, in line with global concerns about the accelerating impact of climate change in the Arctic.