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Lose Ice in Alaska, See Temperatures Spike By 7°C

This puts the goal of keeping temperature rises below 2°C to shame

(Photo: Galen Rowell/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

The average October temperature in Barrow, Alaska, has risen by 7°C—or 12.6°F—since 1979, the Guardian reports. The international community aims to keep temperature rise at 2°C or less, but in Barrow, at least, that goal seems laughable. 

The extreme temperature spike there, researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks determined, is due to sea ice loss. They analyzed temperature recordings from 1979 to 2012, on a month-to-month and annual basis, and compared them with satellite images of sea ice cover taken at the same time, the Guardian describes. October had the highest temperature spikes and also the greatest loss of sea ice compared to past years. 

The researchers behind the findings were shocked. As one commented to the Guardian: “I think I have never, anywhere, seen such a large increase in temperature over such a short period.” 

While this finding is extreme, as Chris Mooney points out in the Washington Post's Wonkblog, we're all becoming a bit numb to such record-breaking stats. "They're shrug-inducing," he writes. "But to think of them in that way is a mistake." As he says—reflecting the view of multitudes of scientists—we're like the frog in the pot of slowly warming water. It's only a matter of time before it begins to boil. 

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