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Arctic sea ice shrinks to sixth-lowest extent on record

 
Arctic Sea Ice

Melting sea ice near Ellesmere Island, Canada. Photograph: Gordon Wiltsie/ Gordon Wiltsie/National Geogra

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Arctic sea ice shrinks to sixth-lowest extent on record” was written by Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 18th September 2013 09.19 UTC

Arctic Sea Ice Extent on September 2013

Arctic sea ice extent September 2013. Photograph: guardian.co.uk

Sea ice cover in the Arctic shrank to one of its smallest extents on record this week, bringing forward the days of an entirely ice-free Arctic during the summer.

The annual sea ice minimum of 5,099m sq km reached on 13 September was not as extreme as last year, when the collapse of sea ice cover broke all previous records.

But it was still the sixth lowest Arctic sea ice minimum on record, and well below the average set over the past 30 years of satellite records. This suggests the Arctic will be entirely ice-free in the summer months within the next few decades, scientists said.

The annual sea ice minimum, based on a five-day average, is expected to be officially declared by the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado within the next few days.

“It certainly is continuing the long-term decline,” said Julienne Stroeve, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre. “We are looking at long-term changes and there are going to be bumps and wiggles along the long-term declining trend, but all the climate models are showing that we are eventually going to lose all of that summer sea ice.”

Overall, the Arctic has lost about 40% of its sea ice cover since 1980. Most scientists believe the Arctic could be entirely ice-free in the summer by the middle of the century – if not sooner.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent

Arctic sea ice extent graph. Photograph: guardian.co.uk

The most dramatic changes have occurred in the past decade. The seven summers with the lowest minimum sea ice extents have all occurred in the past seven years.

The loss of sea ice cover is a leading indicator of climate change, and will be a key part of the findings released next week by the United Nations’ climate science panel, the IPCC.

The loss of Arctic sea ice has also emerged as a driver of extreme weather events in Europe.

 

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