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Arctic Ice Record Low

As of late August, the ice in the Arctic covers the least area it has in three decades

by Cheryl Hogue
September 4, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 36

Credit: NASA
The line in this satellite image from Aug. 26 shows the average minimum extent from the period covering 1979-2010.
Credit: NASA

The extent of sea ice in the Arctic on Aug. 26 measured 1.58 million sq miles. That’s the smallest area ever recorded in three decades of satellite measurements, according to scientists at the National Snow & Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and NASA.

This year’s ice coverage of the Arctic Ocean is 27,000 sq miles less than the previous record low, which was set in 2007, the researchers say. The orange line, added to the sattelite image, designates the average minimum extent of ice coverage for the years 1979 to 2010.

“It’s likely we are going to surpass the record decline by a fair amount this year by the time all is said and done,” says Walt Meier, a scientist at the Boulder data center. The Arctic’s summer melting season typically ends in mid- to late September.

Scientists link the decline in sea ice to human-induced climate change.

The center and NASA report that much of the thick ice that has historically covered Arctic waters each winter has been replaced in recent years by thinner ice that has melted faster.


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