According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Arctic sea ice cover appears to have reached its minimum extent for the year, the second-lowest extent recorded since the dawn of the satellite era.
Despite overall cooler summer temperatures, the 2008 minimum extent is only 390,000 square kilometers (150,000 square miles), or 9.4%, more than the record-setting 2007 minimum. The 2008 minimum extent is 15.0% less than the next-lowest minimum extent set in 2005 and 33.1% less than the average minimum extent from 1979 to 2000.
This season further reinforces the long-term downward trend of sea ice extent.
[social_buttons]Even though the sea ice didn’t retreat this year as much as last summer, “there was no real sign of recovery,” said Walt Meier of NSIDC. This year was cooler and other weather conditions weren’t as bad, he said.
“We’re kind of in a new state of the Arctic basically, and it’s not a good one,” Meier said. “We’re definitely sliding towards a point where the summer sea ice will be gone.”
Scientists have predicted that the Arctic will become ice free in the summer by the year 2013, if not sooner. This also does not bode well for global warming, since ice reflects sunlight whereas dark oceans absorb it.
On top of that, the Arctic ice melting trend has shifted. Normally the ice would reach its minimum extent by early September, but after the record melt of 2007, much of the ice reformed with much less thickness, allowing it to continue to melt through mid-September this year.
The Arctic is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the planet, and can be considered a ‘canary in the coal mine’. Right now, that canary is not in good health.
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Images courtesy of NSIDC