Think of this bowl as representing the Earth’s sea ice (a hyper accurate visual, clearly). It’s 33% gone – and it’s melting fast.
There is now less sea ice on Earth than at any time in recorded history. Since 1980, the Earth has lost about 1/3rd of its total sea ice volume.
To illustrate how outside of normal climate behaviors the earth is experiencing: In December global sea ice extent fell 4.4 million sq km below average, an event eight standard deviations from the normal range. In other words, the statistical probability of that event happening under past expectations of average is 1 in 30 billion, aka: hugely unlikely aka climate change has disrupted what “normal” climate looks like.
Sea ice is important. For one, the more we lose, the worse future losses are likely to be (see Robert Scribbler’s blog re: amplifying feedback). For two, the arctic/antarctic are critical components of the climate system, they cool the earth, house numerous ecosystems, shield the earth from incoming solar radiation and (the polar regions) are among the most productive in the world for ocean life.
Sources: Robert Scribbler’s blog, NSIDC.org, The Guardian (nov 2016)
Written by Taran Nadler