Record low Arctic sea ice a concern for all Canadians
Sea ice cover is recorded throughout the year, generally reaching a maximum each winter, and a minimum at the end of every summer. National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) puts this year’s maximum extent at an average 14.41 million square kilometres, 1.6 per cent lower than the previous 2011 record, over 6 per cent lower than 1981-2010 long-term average.
The rapid loss of sea ice has been linked to wet summers, severe winters and extreme weather events – all connected to climate change – in the northern hemisphere. This is happening right in our own back yard, and as Canadians, we cannot ignore it. WWF-Canada will continue to push for the reduction of greenhouse gases and the protection of critical habitat. If we don’t, our climate will become increasingly unrecognizable and unpredictable, putting more people – and nature – at risk.
Scientists predict there could be an ice-free summer as early as 2040. However, it is possible that a fringe of ice will remain in majority in the eastern High Arctic Archipelago of Canada and, to a lesser extent, in northern Greenland. This is known as the Last Ice Area.
Sea ice is a vital part of the complex Arctic ecosystem, from microscopic single-celled algae and zooplankton, to iconic species such as polar bear, caribou, beluga and narwhal, they all rely on the ice to survive. This loss of crucial habitat has already been observed to have negative consequences on animal populations and the communities that depend on them.
In an effort to protect the rich web of life that depends on Arctic sea ice, we are working with governing organizations to provide information and strategies to carefully manage what will be the Last Ice Area. The work of the Government of Canada with the Government of Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association towards the creation of a National Marine Conservation Area in Lancaster Sound at the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, is an important step in that direction.
WWF-Canada recognizes the Last Ice Area is a vital refuge for ice-dependent species from the impacts of climate change.