Category Archives: Climate

Arctic Sea Ice at Record Low for January

An unusually warm January over the Arctic ocean combined with a strong negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation shrunk sea ice extent to its lowest point for any January in the satellite record going back to 1979.

With air temperatures as much as 13 degrees Fahrenheit above average over much of the Arctic ocean, sea ice extent was 405,000 square miles below the 1979-2010 average. At 5.2 million square miles, sea ice extent was 42,500 square miles below the previous record low set in 2011. The amount of sea ice extent below average is equal to the size of Texas, New Mexico, Maryland and New Hampshire combined.

Arctic Anomaly

The Arctic region “is behaving very oddly this winter,”  said Mark Serreze director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado:

“For the Arctic this is definitely the strangest winter I’ve ever seen” 

For Alaska, it is very much the year without winter. In Fairbanks only 1.8 inches of snow fell between December 1 and January 31, 20 inches below average and the lowest snow fall on record for period. By contrast, New York City saw 2.5 inches of snowfall just last Friday morning.

Downward trend for Arctic sea ice extent

Arctic Sea ice declining average

Since 2005 January sea ice extent has been less the 5.5 million square miles, contrasting the January extent prior to 2005 (1979-2004) with sea ice extent greater than 5.5 million sq. miles. The trend continues, with January sea ice extent declining at a rate of -3.2 percent per decade.

Climate Negotiations in Paris: the Art of the Possible

COP21 was winding down on Friday, December 11, but excitement was in the air as promise of a first-ever global climate agreement neared its dramatic conclusion.

On the way in to the Le Bourget conference site that day I shared an electric car ride with Juliana Phillip from the negotiating team for the EU.

As we discussed the outcome of the conference, I was interested to hear the perspective of someone “on the inside” of the negotiating rooms.

As we walked down the “Champs de Elysées” at Le Bourget, Ms. Phillip commented how interesting it had been to watch the negotiations play out over the proceeding weeks and months, culminating in the present moment that chilly Friday morning. 

As we parted ways, we both commented on how it demonstrated the Art of the Possible.

Indeed, the Paris Agreement signed at COP21 is far from perfect, but it was also a momentous step forward. When I arrived back home the next day, I wrote COP21, the Paris Agreement and the Art of the Possible