September 16, 2010

Arctic Ice Reaches Third-Lowest Extent Ever

The likelihood of summer Arctic ice cover disappearing within the next few years is unlikely, according to researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder, though the minimum of ice found in the ocean has dipped to its third lowest levels since 1979.

According to a press release, scientists at the university's National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) found that the Arctic ice extent dropped to 1.84 million square miles at its lowest point, on September 10. That is 630,000 square miles higher than the all-time satellite-era low, which was recorded in 2007, and 93,000 square miles more than the second-lowest amount (2008). It also marked only the third time that the ice extent had fallen below 1.93 million square miles, according to the report.

"While this year's September minimum extent was greater than 2007 and 2008"¦ it is still significantly below the long-term average and well outside the range of natural climate variability," the press release said. "Most researchers believe the shrinking Arctic sea ice is tied to warming temperatures caused by an increase in human-produced greenhouse gases being pumped into Earth's atmosphere."

"The Arctic, like the globe as a whole, is warming up and warming up quickly, and we're starting to see the sea ice respond to that. Really, in all months, the sea ice cover is shrinking--there's an overall downward trend," NSIDC Director Mark Serreze told AFP.

"The extent of Arctic ice is dropping at something like 11 percent per decade--very quickly, in other words," he added. "Our thinking is that by 2030 or so, if you went out to the Arctic on the first of September, you probably won't see any ice at all. It will look like a blue ocean."

The shrinkage comes following a 12-month period which was described by NASA as the warmest in its 130-year period, largely due to the effects of El Nino, according to BBC News. The British news agency also notes that with conditions starting to segue to cooler La Nina conditions, the U.S. space agency believes that 2010 will stand as the warmest calendar year on record.


Image 2: Arctic sea ice reached what appears to be the lowest 2010 extent, making it the third lowest extent in the satellite record. Credit: CU-Boulder/National snow and Ice Data Center


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