NASA satellite data shows that this month marks the fourth record for the lowest extent of summer Arctic sea ice.
The analysis was released by NASA’s Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), based in Boulder, Colorado. According to the release, September 11th marked the fourth lowest record of Arctic sea ice over a period of just nine years. The minimum extent was measured at 1.70 million square miles. This ranks below the average calculated for the period 1981-2010, with a total of 699,000 square miles.
Other years during which the minimum summer ice extent was reached are 2007, 2011 and 2012, currently the holder of the lowest point on record. Compared to this point, the ice extent measured on September 11th was 394,000 square miles above.
Announcing the fourth lowest Arctic sea ice extent on record, the NSIDC stated:
“The minimum ice extent was the fourth lowest in the satellite record, and reinforces the long-term downward trend in Arctic ice extent. The nine lowest extents in the satellite era have all occurred in the last nine years”.
According to scientists overseeing the matter, the rapid melting ice in the Arctic sea is most likely an effect of global climate change. Considering that all four low record points concerning the minimum extent of the summer Arctic sea ice have been reached in a nine-year timeframe, no other factor could account for this rapid decline.
Walt Meier, who works with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and is studying sea ice explained that in satellite data didn’t indicate any weather pattern that would persist sufficiently to cause the Arctic sea ice to melt to this extent. While higher temperatures were observed in some regions, others registered lower temperatures. This would normally offset the effects on sea ice. However, it wasn’t the case.
Satellite data and data derived from other measurements indicate an accelerated decline in the Arctic sea ice since 1996. The sea ice cap, once solid is now a collection of fragments all the more vulnerable to warming ocean water. In Meier’s words:
“In the past, Arctic sea ice was like a fortress. The ocean could only attack it from the sides. Now it’s like the invaders have tunneled in from underneath and the ice pack melts from within”.
The melting of the Arctic sea ice cannot be reversed. However, next week NASA is preparing to further study the effects that summer melting and this new record point will have on both sea ice and land through Operation Ice Bridge. More details will follow.
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