Arctic Sea Ice Shrank to Lowest on Record, Researchers Say

Arctic Sea Ice Shrank to Lowest on Record, Researchers Say
Sea ice can take many forms, as seen in this image of Arctic sea ice from a recent Operation IceBridge aerial survey. Varying thicknesses of sea ice are shown here, from thin, nearly transparent layers to thicker, older sea ice covered with snow. Photograph: NASA

Arctic sea ice on Sept. 16 shrank to its lowest ever in a satellite record stretching back 33 years, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Sea-ice cover shrank to 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles), 18 percent less than the previous record from 2007, Boulder, Colorado-based NSIDC said today in an e-mailed statement.

The shrinking Arctic ice cap is one of the most visible signs of climate change, according to NSIDC Director Mark Serreze.

“While we’ve long known that, as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur,” Serreze said in the statement. “We are now in uncharted territory.”

Coverage melted to 4.17 million square kilometers in September 2007. The average annual minimum area from 1979 to 2010 was 6.29 million square kilometers.

Sea ice melts every summer and typically begins freezing again in September. The Sept. 16 figure will probably be the low point for this year, NSIDC said. The research agency uses five-day averages to calculate measurements to account for day-to-day anomalies.

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