Snow in the northern most town in the nation is melting earlier than ever
before on record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s
Observatory in Barrow reported a snowmelt starting on May 13. That’s 10 days
earlier than the previous record set in 2002. NOAA has been recording
snowmelt from its Barrow Observatory for over 70 years.
The record melt follows a winter of record-setting temperatures. Alaska was
more than 11 degrees warmer that normal this winter. And this winter didn’t
just see an early melt on land. According to the National Snow and Ice Data
Center, 2016 also saw the lowest winter sea ice extent in satellite
This winter didn’t just see an early melt on land. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, 2016 also saw the lowest winter sea ice extent in satellite history.
David Douglas, a research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said in a NOAA press release that conditions in the Arctic are looking more like they would in late June or early July right now.
The early thaw is already taking a toll on wildlife in the far north.
“Polar bears are having to make their decisions about how to move and where to go on thinner ice pack that’s mostly first-year ice,” Douglas said. Douglas also expects walrus to struggle this summer with the thinner sea ice and warmer temperatures.