NASA is preparing to launch two missions to explore the Arctic following data that showed 2015 to be the warmest year on record.
According to the US space agency, 2016 so far appears to be hot on last year’s heels, prompting sea ice to grow at an exceptionally slow rate.
NASA scientist Walt Meier says the effects could be wide-ranging: “The Arctic has been kind-of like an air conditioner, a cool region that helps keep the planet cooler, and we’re losing the efficiency on that. And as that contrast decreases, the Arctic warms with the lower latitudes.”
“We’re seeing the changes in wind patterns and things like the jet-streams, storm tracks, changing in response to this different balance between the polar regions in the lower latitudes. And that of course has wide-ranging effects throughout the Northern Hemisphere in the United States, Europe, and so-forth.”
The two new NASA missions, called Operation Ice Bridge and Oceans Melting Greenland, will monitor the health of the Arctic from space and on the ground.