02 Dec 2016:
To Fight Air Pollution, Four
Cities Announce Ban on Diesel Cars By 2025
Four of the world’s largest cities announced Friday that they will ban diesel cars by 2025
in an effort to cut air pollution.
Traffic and smog in the outskirts of Paris.
Leaders from Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City made the declaration at the C40 Mayors Summit, a biennial meeting of civic leaders concerned about climate change. Toxic air is responsible for an estimated 3 million premature deaths
each year, according to recent research by the World Health Organization. While diesel engines burn fuel more efficiently and therefore release less carbon dioxide, they do produce nitrogen dioxide and particulates that can inflame and damage people’s lungs. “Mayors have already stood up to say that climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face,” said Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris. “Today, we also stand up to say we no longer tolerate air pollution and the health problems and deaths it causes.”
30 Nov 2016:
Soils Could Release 55 Trillion
Kilograms of Carbon By Mid-Century
The world’s soils act as critical storage for carbon, sequestering carbon from the atmosphere to fuel plant and microbial activity.
Permafrost in Greenland.
But scientists warned this week
that as soils warm in response to climate change, they could release 55 trillion kilograms of carbon by mid-century — roughly equivalent to the projected emissions of the United States, or 17 percent of all countries, during that same period. The largest losses will be from high-latitude ecosystems, the new study, led by scientists at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and published in the journal Nature
, said. This includes Arctic and sub-Arctic permafrost, where colder temperatures and slow microbial activity have led to the buildup of massive carbon reserves over thousands of years. The scientists found that for every 1 degree Celsius of global warming, soils will release approximately 30 trillion kilograms of carbon into the atmosphere, or twice the annual emissions from human activities.
29 Nov 2016:
This Year’s Coral Die-Off on
Great Barrier Reef Was Worst Ever Recorded
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia experienced its worst recorded coral die off this year, with one region losing an average
Dead table corals on the Great Barrier Reef.
67 percent of its shallow-water coral, scientists confirmed this week
. The mass die-off event was caused by abnormally warm water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, which can trigger corals to expel their algae and calcify and turn white, a process known as coral bleaching. Corals can recover from bleaching, but many never do. “Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most-pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef,” said Terry Hughes, a marine biologist at James Cook University who led the surveys of the coral die-off. “This region escaped with minor damage in two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly affected.” Damage to the southern two-thirds of the reef, however, was far less than expected, the scientists reported.
23 Nov 2016:
Trump Will Scrap NASA
Climate Research, Senior Adviser Says
NASA’s world-renowned research into climate change will be eliminated
under a Donald J. Trump administration, with some of the space agency’s climate work being transferred to other parts of the U.S. government, according to Robert Walker, Trump’s senior adviser on NASA. Walker said NASA’s chief function will be space exploration and that there will be no need for it to conduct what he has called “politically correct environmental monitoring.” He added, “Mr. Trump’s decisions will be based upon solid science, not politicized science.” NASA, a global leader in monitoring climate change using satellites and other technologies, has a $2 billion earth sciences budget. Walker, a former Congressman, falsely claimed that only half of the world’s climate scientists believe that human activity is driving climate change. Trump said on Tuesday that he has an “open mind” about climate change
and is re-evaluating his pledge to withdraw U.S. support for the Paris climate accords.
22 Nov 2016:
Freakishly Warm Weather
Is Preventing Sea Ice Formation in Arctic
Scientists are watching with growing alarm as exceptionally warm air and ocean temperatures are effectively holding winter at bay
throughout much of the Arctic, leading to record low sea ice conditions. Researchers in the U.S., Britain, and Denmark say that air temperatures over much of the Arctic Ocean have been about 10 to 20 degrees C (18 to 36 F) above normal this fall, while sea temperatures have been nearly 4 C (7 F) higher than usual in October and November. As a result, sea ice simply isn’t forming in much of the Arctic basin, which further heats up the atmosphere and ocean since dark, open water absorbs far more solar radiation than the reflective white surface of ice and snow. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University said the region’s temperatures are now “literally off the charts.” Danish satellite remote sensing expert Rasmus Tonboe said the situation in the Arctic is both “surprising and alarming” because sea ice is disappearing faster than climate models had forecast.
21 Nov 2016:
Canada to Phase Out
Nearly All Coal-Fired Electricity by 2030
Canada’s Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, has announced that the country will eliminate virtually all coal-fired power plants
by 2030, which would mean that 90 percent of Canada's electricity would come from carbon-free sources of energy by that time. Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, McKenna said that four provinces still burn coal for electricity — Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. They will either phase out coal use or will be allowed to temporarily keep some coal-fired power plants open if equivalent CO2 emissions reductions are achieved in other sectors, McKenna said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose Liberal Party took power a year ago, ran on a platform of reducing carbon emissions and embracing renewable energy. Roughly 60 percent of Canada’s electricity is generated using hydropower, and analysts predicted that the Liberal government’s announcement Monday will stimulate the development of wind, solar, and other renewable forms of energy.
18 Nov 2016:
Nations Have “Urgent Duty” to
Carry Out Paris Accord, UN Conference Says
As the UN climate conference in Marrakech neared completion, nearly 200 nations, including the United States, reiterated their commitment
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Marrakech.
Paris agreement, saying that the world has “an urgent duty” to respond to global warming. In the joint statement, known as the Marrakech Action Proclamation
, delegates pledged to stand with nations hit hardest by climate change, reduce emissions to meet a 1.5 degree C temperature goal, and mobilize $100 billion for resiliency work. “We welcome the Paris Agreement, its rapid entry into force, with its ambitious goals… in the light of different national circumstances,” the announcement said, “and we affirm our commitment to its full implementation.” Also this week, 47 countries on the front lines of climate change, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Costa Rica, pledged to go 100 percent renewable and carbon neutral
in coming decades to “help trigger increased commitments from all countries” to reduce greenhouse gases.
16 Nov 2016:
Hundreds of U.S. Businesses Call
For Continued International Climate Action
More than 360 U.S.-based businesses, including some of the world’s largest multinational corporations, sent a letter
Delegates at UN climate meetings in Morocco.
U.S. and world leaders this week asking them to continue to support the Paris climate agreement and speed up the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. "Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk,” the group said. “But the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness. We pledge to do our part, in our own operations and beyond.” The statement, presented at United Nations climate meetings
in Marrakesh, Morocco this week, was addressed to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, U.S. President Barack Obama, Congress, and world leaders. Signatories include major conglomerates such as General Mills, Hewlett-Packard, Hilton, Nike, Kellogg, Unilever, Starbucks, and DuPont, as well as more than 50 other companies and investors with annual revenues exceeding $100 million.
Interview: Are Trees Sentient?
Certainly, Says German Forester
In his bestselling book, The Hidden Life of Trees
, German forester Peter Wohlleben argues
that to save the world’s forests from climate change and other threats we must first recognize that trees are “wonderful beings” with innate adaptability, intelligence, and the capacity to communicate with — and heal — other trees. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Wohlleben discusses how trees live in families, have an inborn memory of events like previous droughts, and possess the capacity to make decisions and fight off predators. Wohlleben has been criticized for anthropomorphizing trees, but he maintains that to succeed in preserving our forests in a rapidly warming world, we must start to look at trees in an entirely different light. Read the interview.
15 Nov 2016:
For Third Year in a Row, Carbon
Emissions Flat as Global Economy Grows
Global carbon emissions from fossil fuels stayed flat in 2015 and are projected to increase by only 0.2 percent in 2016 — marking three years in a row that emissions have been decoupled from global economic growth, according to a new analysis
by scientists at the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project
. The three-year slowdown is largely due to China’s declining coal usage, the study said, which helped the country reduce emissions 0.7 percent in 2015 and a projected 0.5 percent in 2016. But the scientists warned that emissions simply staying flat is not sufficient to combat climate change. “This third year of almost no growth in emissions is unprecedented at a time of strong economic growth… but it is not enough,” Corinne Le Quéré, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia who led the data analysis, said in a statement. “Global emissions now need to decrease rapidly, not just stop growing.”
14 Nov 2016:
2016 Temperatures Measure
1.2 Degrees C Above Pre-Industrial Levels
This year is on track to become the hottest year on record, with global temperatures measuring 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 F) above pre-industrial levels,
Global temperature rise over the last century.
according to the World Meteorological Organization
(WMO). Global temperatures this year will likely beat the previous record, 2015, by 0.2 degrees Celsius
, setting a new high for the third year in a row. “Another year, another record,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement released at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech. By the end of 2016, 16 out of 17 hottest years on record will have been in this century, with 1998 as the outlier, the WMO said. Warming in Arctic regions has been particularly extreme this year, with temperatures in parts of Arctic Russia soaring to 6 degrees C to 7 degrees C (10.8-12.6 degrees F) above the long-term average. Many others parts of the Arctic have experienced temperatures 3 degrees C above average.
11 Nov 2016:
Just 1 Degree C of Warming Has
Altered Nearly Every Aspect of Life on Earth
Climate change has already impacted nearly every aspect of life on earth, according to a new study
in the journal Science
A bearded seal near Monaco Glacier, Svalbard.
Warming global temperatures have altered everything from entire ecosystems down to the individual genes of species. Some 80 percent of key ecological processes examined by the scientists show signs of change and distress. The disruptions could lead to unpredictable fisheries yields, reduced agricultural productivity, worsening pests and disease outbreaks, and “point toward an increasingly unpredictable future for humans,” the authors wrote. "There is now clear evidence that, with only a ~1 degree C of warming globally, very major impacts are already being felt," said lead author Brett Scheffers
, an ecologist at the University of Florida. "Species' physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are rapidly moving to keep track of suitable climate space, and there are now signs of entire ecosystems under stress."
Interview: At Standing Rock Protest,
A Battle Over Fossil Fuels and Land
For more than eight months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota has been leading a protest to stop an oil pipeline from
Kyle Powys Whyte
potentially threatening its drinking water and sacred sites. In many ways, the battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline is a traditional fight over Native American land rights. But as indigenous rights expert Kyle Powys Whyte sees it, the demonstration also points to the important role tribes have played in opposing fossil fuel energy projects in recent years. “Almost everywhere you go, tribes have taken direct action to protect their health and their cultures and their economies from the threats, as well as the false promises of, extractive industries,” he says. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Powys Whyte talks about the long history of coal and oil and gas development on native lands and why Standing Rock has become a lightning rod for opposition to fossil fuels.
Read the interview.
09 Nov 2016:
Could Dying Puffins in the Bering
Sea Spell Trouble for Other Marine Life?
Starting in mid-October, hundreds of tufted puffins began washing up dead on islands in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska.
A tufted puffin on St. Paul Island in Alaska.
The birds weren’t sick, but were in an “advanced state of starvation,” National Geographic reported
. While the deaths are alarming, scientists are also concerned about them being a harbinger of bad news for other marine species in the northern Pacific Ocean. Record-warm water temperatures in the region earlier this year may have shifted or reduced critical ocean food sources — small fish and zooplankton called copepods — affecting not only the puffins, but also dozens of other marine species, from seals to salmon to crab. “Clearly something very weird is going on,” said Julia Parrish, a biologist at the University of Washington. “It is basically every year now we’re getting some huge mass-mortality event… And the forage fish that everything depends on are taking it in the shorts.”
03 Nov 2016:
Even With Paris Pledges, World
Could Warm As Much as 3.4 Degrees C By 2100
Global temperatures could rise as much as 3.4 degrees C (6.1 degrees F) this century even if nations achieve the greenhouse gas reduction targets set forth in the Paris climate agreement, according to a new report
from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Emissions for 2030 are projected to be 54 billion to 56 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which is nearly 25 percent — or 12 billion to 14 billion tons of CO2 — higher than levels needed to hold global warming to 2 degrees C by 2100. The new UNEP report comes just one day before the Paris climate agreement officially enters into force, and a few days before the next UN global climate conference in Marrakesh, Morocco. “The world must urgently and dramatically increase its ambition to… have any chance of minimizing dangerous climate change,” the UNEP said
24 Oct 2016:
Pope Francis’ Call for Climate
Action Fails to Sway Many Americans
A direct call to action by the Pope has apparently failed to inspire people to be concerned about climate change, according to a new national survey
public policy researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Last year, Pope Francis release a 200-page papal letter entitled “Laudato Si
,” or “Be Praised,” that urged 1.1 billion Catholics to address climate change and live more sustainably. The new survey, published in the journal Climatic Change
, found those who had heard of the encyclical — both Catholics and non-Catholics — were no more concerned about global warming than those who hadn’t. Those who knew about the encyclical were also more politically polarized
in their acceptance or denial of climate change. The scientists used data from 1,381 20-minute phone interviews one week before the encyclical’s release and two weeks after it was published.
The Moth Snowstorm: Finding
True Value in Nature’s Riches
It is the blizzard of moths that Michael McCarthy remembers most vividly. As a boy, his family would take summer nighttime drives to the English coast,
and the car headlights and windshield would soon be so splattered with moths they would have to stop to clean them off. “That phenomenon has gone,” says McCarthy. “It’s disappeared because there has been a horrendous crash in moth numbers in the U.K.” His recent book, The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy
, offers a defense of the natural world rooted in the joy and spiritual nourishment it provides. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, McCarthy, a British journalist, talks about the loss of wildlife; how the decline in species abundance, as opposed to extinctions, is overlooked; and why he thinks putting a monetary value on so-called ecosystem services is too limiting. “You can say mangrove swamps are worth so many billion dollars,” he says. “But what about birdsong? How much is birdsong worth?”
Read the interview.
18 Oct 2016:
September Breaks Monthly Temp
Record, Continuing World’s Warming Trend
September was the warmest September since modern record keeping began around 1880, measuring 0.91 degrees Celsius higher than the 1951-1980
Temperature anomalies in September 2016.
average, according to new data
by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. According to NASA, “11 of the past 12 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 have set new monthly high-temperature records.” Or as the website Climate Central
put it, “September [is] an exclamation point on a string of hot months.” The new temperature data nearly guarantees that 2016 will be named the hottest year on record, measuring about 1.25 degrees Celsius above the late 19th century average, according to climate scientist Gavin Schmidt
, the director of GISS. NASA’s temperature data is collected by 6,300 meteorological stations scattered across the globe, a buoy-based data system in the oceans, and research centers on Antarctica.
17 Oct 2016:
UN Warns Climate Change Could
Put 122 Million More People into Poverty
Between 35 million and 122 million more people could be living in poverty by 2030 as climate change impacts food production
A farmer in India during a recent heat wave.
and small-scale farmers’ incomes across the globe, according to a new report
by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The report, which examines food security and crop production and prices under various climate scenarios, says that without “widespread adoption of sustainable land, water, fisheries, and forestry practices, global poverty cannot be eradicated.” There are an estimated half-billion small-scale farms
across the globe, managed by 2.5 billion people. These farms provide over 80 percent of the food consumed in the developing world, including southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. "There is no doubt climate change affects food security," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "We cannot assure any more that we will have the harvest we have planted."
14 Oct 2016:
Is There Too Much Emphasis
Being Placed on Carbon Capture Technology?
The world is placing too much credence on being able to combat climate change by pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a process known as “air capture
,” according to an article in the journal Science
this week. “Negative-emission technologies are not an insurance policy, but rather an unjust and high-stakes gamble,” wrote the article’s authors
, Kevin Anderson, a climate scientist at the University of Manchester in the U.K, and Glen Peters, a scientist at CICERO, a climate research organization in Norway. “There is a real risk they will be unable to deliver on the scale of their promise,” and assuming otherwise is “a moral hazard par excellence,” they wrote. Carbon capture technologies are a key component of the Paris climate agreement, with many of the modeling scenarios assuming the technology will be operating on a large scale later this century, reported Climate Central
13 Oct 2016:
Scientists Creating “Super Grass”
To Cut Methane Emissions from Cows
Danish scientists are developing a grass that will cut down how often cows burp and pass gas — reducing the amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas,
Dairy cows in Europe.
they release into the atmosphere. Collaborating with international seed company DLF, the scientists are working to create a “super grass” that is easier for cows to digest, thereby reducing the amount of gas that builds up in their stomachs, several media outlets reported
. Global emissions of methane — which is roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period — have been on the rise since the 1980s. Livestock, specifically cows, are thought to release an estimated 90 million tons of methane into the atmosphere annually. The new, nearly $2 million research collaboration between the University of Aarhus in Denmark and DLF hopes to develop the new grass by 2024, at the latest.
10 Oct 2016:
Trump Proclaims at Debate
That ‘Coal Will Last for 1,000 Years’ in U.S.
At the second 2016 U.S. presidential debate, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump clashed over energy policy and climate change
, with Trump
saying the energy industry is “under siege” from Obama administration regulations and vowing that “clean coal” will continue to power the U.S. for a thousand years. While both pledged to help beleaguered coal miners, Trump doubled down on his support for fossil fuel production while Clinton said the U.S. must gradually decouple its economy from coal, oil, and natural gas. “I support moving towards more clean, renewable energy as quickly as we can because I think we can be the 21st-century clean-energy superpower and create millions of new jobs and businesses,” she said.
06 Oct 2016:
Methane Emissions From Fossil
Fuels Much Higher Than Previously Thought
Methane emissions from global fossil fuel production are up to 60 percent higher than previously estimated, according to a new study in the journal Nature
by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several universities. Combined, methane emissions from oil and gas production and natural geological leakage are up to 110 percent greater than previously estimated. The upward revision shows that the fossil fuel industry is responsible for 25 percent of total global methane emissions, or up to 165 million tons of the 623 million tons emitted from all sources. The study comes at a time when companies are working to reduce methane leaks
from extraction facilities and pipelines, with some success. The scientists found leak rates have declined from 8 percent to 2 percent over the past 30 years. Increased natural gas production, however, has negated these improvements.
Public Art or Renewable Energy?
New Designs Aim to Produce Both
When the topic of energy infrastructure comes up, works of art don’t usually come to mind. But hundreds of such hybrid creations — part renewable power generators,
A vegetable farm off the Santa Monica Pier.
part large-scale art installations — now exist, at least on paper, as the result of a sustainable design competition known as the Land Art Generator Initiative
. Multi-disciplinary teams across the world have taken up the challenge to come up with buildable designs that produce renewable energy and “add value to public space, inspire, and educate.” In a photo essay, Yale Environment 360
highlights eight submissions to this year’s biennial competition, including the three winners announced this week. All designed for the waters off the Santa Monica Pier in Southern California, the systems range from a ring-shaped farm floating offshore to sail-like structures that harvest drinking water from fog.
29 Sep 2016:
Climate Change Could Double
Wildfire Extent in Canada by 2100
Warming temperatures and a changing climate are expected to at least double the acreage consumed by wildfires every year in Canada by the end of the century,
A wildfire in Alberta, Canada in May 2016.
according to a new report
by the scientific agency, Natural Resources Canada. The number of large forest fires in the country is also expected to increase 1.5-fold over the same period due to milder, drier conditions, the report said. In 2015, 7,068 wildfires burned about 3.9 million hectares of Canadian forest. The annual report, The State of Canada’s Forests
, noted that even if the world manages to limit global warming to an average 2 degrees Celsius, Canada could still experience a temperature rise of 4 degrees C by 2100. The report said such warmer conditions will change the species composition, size, and age distribution of Canada’s forests
, a natural resource that generated more than $22 billion in gross domestic product for the country in 2015.
27 Sep 2016:
Could California’s Gridlock
Generate Electricity for the Grid?
California is testing whether its heavy traffic can produce not just emissions and air pollution, but electricity.
Traffic on Interstate 80 near Berkeley, Calif.
The state’s Energy Commission says it will spend $2 million to examine the potential of using piezoelectric crystals embedded under asphalt as a way to send the energy created by moving cars to the grid. The crystals generate energy when compressed by the weight of moving cars, but tests of the technology at larger scales have failed or been canceled in Tokyo, Italy, and Israel, according to the Associated Press
. California, therefore, “needs to figure out whether it can produce high returns without costing too much,” the AP writes. If successful, the technology could help the state reach its goal to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. California is expected to hit a 25 percent renewables target by the end of this year.
23 Sep 2016:
World’s Coffee Supply
Threatened by Climate Change, Report Says
A new report says that climate change could significantly reduce the amount of suitable land on which to grow coffee
and lead to an increase in outbreaks of diseases that threaten the crop. The report
— released by the Australian non-profit, the Climate Institute — warns that under current emissions scenarios, coffee-growing regions could see a 50 percent drop in the acreage fit to raise coffee plants, which need a precise combination of temperature and precipitation to thrive. Rising temperatures are also likely to lead to an increase in diseases like coffee rust and pests like the coffee berry borer, the report said. Major coffee-producing countries in the “bean belt” — including Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Ethiopia, and Vietnam — have already become less hospitable because of shifts in weather patterns, the report said. “It’s a severe threat,” said an executive at U.S.-based Peet’s Coffee.
What’s Killing the Native Birds in
The Mountain Forests of Kauai?
The few remaining species of native forest birds left on the Hawaiian island of Kauai have suffered population declines so severe — 98 percent in one case — that some are near extinction.
The cause of the collapse, according to a recent study in the journal Science Advances
, is not alien plants or predators, but rather warming temperatures that have enabled non-native mosquitoes carrying deadly avian malaria to invade the birds’ high-elevation strongholds. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Eben Paxton
, an avian ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the study’s lead author, says his group’s research showed that the mosquitoes moved into the Alakai Plateau over the last decade, infecting the birds and pushing their populations to a tipping point. He cites a number of approaches for eradicating the mosquitoes, including releasing irradiated infertile males and using genetically modified mosquitoes. “The way that we view Kauai,” he says, “is that it's an early warning system for the rest of the islands.”
Read the interview.
21 Sep 2016:
Paris Climate Agreement Moves
One Step Closer to Entering Into Force
Thirty-one countries officially joined the Paris climate accords this week at United Nations’ meetings in New York City.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
The announcements bring the total number of countries joining the Paris Agreement to 60, representing 48 percent of global emissions. Once nations that generate 55 percent of global emissions officially join, the agreement will enter into force within 30 days. The new countries include
Brazil, the world’s seventh-largest emitter of carbon dioxide; Argentina; Mexico; and the United Arab Emirates. China and the United States officially joined the agreement earlier this month. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon predicted the agreement, created in December last year, would enter into force by the end of this year. “What once seemed impossible now seems inevitable,” Ban said
19 Sep 2016:
Arctic Sea Ice Extent in 2016 Ties
As Second Lowest in the Satellite Record
Arctic sea ice extent shrank to 1.6 million square miles earlier this month — tying 2016 with 2007 as the second lowest sea ice minimum since satellite records began.
Sea ice extent in September 2016.
The lowest year remains 2012. The new measurements follow a decades-long trend of declining sea ice extent in the Arctic as global temperatures rise. According to NASA
, “September Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 13.4 percent per decade, relative to the 1981 to 2010 average.” The ten lowest sea ice extents have all happened in the last ten years
. Since 2016 is considered likely to be the warmest year on record, scientists had anticipated an even worse year for sea ice. But “unusually cool, cloudy conditions” in the region for much of the summer helped reduce ice melt, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said