Low Arctic sea ice levels are the "new normal," according to NASA


The current low amount of ice in the Arctic Ocean would have sent shockwaves across the science community decades ago. But according to NASA scientists, climate change means these low ice levels are just "the new normal."

"A decade ago, this year's sea ice extent would have set a new record low and by a fair amount," Walt Meier, NASA sea ice scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a press release. "Now, we're kind of used to these low levels of sea ice — it's the new normal."

The amount of ice melt in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding bodies of water has been all over the board this year. NASA researchers said it started with a record-low maximum ice extent in March and a lot of loss in May. The ice loss rate slowed down in June, only to speed up for the first half of August, reaching a rate higher than average for late summer. Because of that slowdown in June, this year probably won't be a record-breaking melt year, the way it has been for global temperatures.

But what's more alarming is that the ice isn't coming back (great news for the luxury cruise liner that recently set out on its inaugural voyage to the Arctic).

"Even when it's likely that we won't have a record low, the sea ice is not showing any kind of recovery. It's still in a continued decline over the long term," Meier said in the release. "It's just not going to be as extreme as other years because the weather conditions in the Arctic were not as extreme as in other years."

The "new normal" Meier mentions is just the latest visible result of a gradually warming planet. Earlier this month, southern Louisiana was hit with heavy storms and floods that killed 11 people and left over 20,000 others in need of rescue. It was a storm that, according to climate scientists, should only occur once every 500 years. 

But we've seen eight such storms in just over a year thanks to a planet so warm, it encourages the presence of atmospheric moisture that causes the downpours. 

"We are in record territory," a letter from the National Weather Service in New Orleans read, in response to an NWS weather balloon recording high levels of atmospheric moisture, according to the Guardian.

At this rate, 2016 will be the hottest year on record — beating 2015 and 2014 before that. And that's bad news for what remains of our ice up north.