Arctic sea ice is disappearing. Here's why you should care.

Dec. 22, 2017

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The Arctic sits up at the northernmost part of the globe.

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The seas and ocean in the Arctic contain sea ice, which fluctuates seasonally and is crucial to the region.

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But that sea ice may be disappearing.

A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that the Arctic is continuing to get warmer, and sea ice is on the decline.

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Speaking at a press conference, Jeremy Mathis, the director of NOAA’s Arctic research program, was grimly realistic about the findings, Vox reported.

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This year’s observations confirm that the Arctic shows no signs of returning to the reliably frozen state it was in just a decade ago.

— Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic research program

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But what does losing sea ice actually mean?

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But what does losing sea ice actually mean?

Sea ice serves a number of roles, Richard Alley, a geologist and climate expert at Penn State, told Mic.

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Sea ice protects coastal villages in the Arctic from ocean waves.

Without it, erosion destroys those villages, Alley said.

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Indigenous hunters in Greenland travel across sea ice in dog sleds. Without that ice, they can’t access their hunting grounds.

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Other species besides humans rely on sea ice to survive, too.

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Polar bears seasonally hunt seals from the sea ice — but no sea ice means no seals, which means far less food for the polar bears.

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And, as Vox reported in January, melting sea ice can lead to more warming, since the exposed ocean absorbs more heat than ice would.

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But the scariest part about losing the sea ice is that it’s what the NOAA called a “new normal,” with no signs that we’ll ever see the old Arctic again.

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