The Guardian view on climate change action: don’t delay
Monday 19 December 2016 16.51 GMT
Arctic temperatures have been 20C above normal. The ice cap is shrinking. And Trump and Putin may see it as an advantage
Temperatures in the Arctic in the last two months have hit more than 20C above normal for the time of year. Temperatures that unusual in the UK and Europe would produce 45C summers. As a result, sea ice has shrunk to levels that scientists describe as “off the scale”. Mapping the changes to the extent of sea ice over the last 40 years confirms that: on a graph, the lines are clustered together like threads in a hank of silk, warming and cooling in line with each other – until this year. This year’s line drops down like a thin thread dangling into the void.
Extrapolating data from a single year must be done with caution. When El Niño boosted global temperatures to make 1998 the hottest year on record, a position it held until 2014, deniers claimed that this showed that global warming had “paused”. In fact, several years after 1998 came within 0.3C of the record. The rise of a huge 20C over normal in the Arctic, the region that acts as one of the most important regulators in the global climate system, means that all expectations must now be rewritten.