Despite the retreat of Arctic sea ice not being as pronounced so far this summer as it has been in previous years, a massive heat wave is forecast to move over the Arctic soon, threatening to hasten this season’s ice melt.
According to emerging threats expert and sea ice analyst Robertscribbler, a combination of the heat from this year’s building El Niño being carried further north by the circumpolar jetstream, and a high-pressure system building over Greenland, are forecast to provide higher than normal temperatures, threatening to increase the rate of sea ice melt in the north.
"This persistent [high-pressure] ridge will remove cloud cover in a large area between North America and the Pole. Sunlight, at its seasonally most intense, will multiply already widespread melt ponds on the sea ice surface," explains Robertscribbler. "The combined solar forcing and loss of albedo will push surface temperatures higher as the ridge remains in place." The expected temperature spike is expected to reach 2-4ºC over the ice sheet’s thickest point, north of Greenland.
One aspect of sea ice is that it has a high albedo, or reflectiveness, that normally reflects a large portion of solar radiation back into space. However, meltwater ponds on the ice, and open ocean reflect less, causing less sunlight to be reflected back out, and in turn, heating the atmosphere even further.
Arctic heat leads to increases in methane release from melting permafrost, which in turn drives regional temperatures even higher, as methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas.