Arctic Sea Ice Level Hits Second Lowest Mark, Ties With 2007 Record


The level of sea ice in the Arctic has now reached its second-lowest mark ever and continues to shrink every passing year, a new study revealed.

On Sept. 10, the Arctic's sea ice cover hit its minimum extent at about 4.14 million square kilometers (1.60 million square miles), according to researchers from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Statistically, the 2016 record is tied with the 2007 minimum, which occurred on Sept. 18, when the level of sea ice stood at 4.15 million square kilometers. Meanwhile, the all-time lowest record belongs to 2012, with a minimum coverage of 3.39 million square kilometers (1.31 million square miles).

Shrinking And Growing

Arctic sea ice level usually shrinks each summer and spring but grows each winter and autumn. Every year, the sea ice reaches the minimum extent in September.

But despite experiencing a cloudy and cool summer this year, the record still reached its second lowest minimum, said Mark Serreze, the director of NSIDC.

"Historically, such weather conditions slow down the summer ice loss," said Serreze.

But during the first and second week of September, the Arctic lost ice at faster rate of 34,100 square kilometers (13,200 square miles) per day.

Compare this to the 1981 to 2010 long-term average record, which is at 21,000 square kilometers (8,100 square miles) per day.

Ted Scambos, lead scientist at NSIDC, said such data suggests that in the coming years, with more typical weather conditions, the Arctic ice level will still see dramatic further losses.

NSIDC researchers say a plethora of thin ice at the end of winter may have contributed to the Sept. 10 record melt. In fact, ocean temperatures reached above-average records in the upper ocean during late summer months, likely accelerating ice loss to the melt season.

The Impact Of Sea Ice Loss

Arctic sea ice is valuable for maintaining the temperature of the planet as well as affecting the circulation of the ocean and the atmosphere. According to NASA, when sea ice is dramatically reduced, Arctic ecosystems and communities can be strongly impacted.

Marine glaciologist Jan Lieser of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center said that it was possible that there could be no more sea ice in the Arctic within three generations.

Sea ice can reflect a lot of solar radiation back to space, and although there are still sea ice present in the region, the warmer the ocean's temperature becomes, the lesser the sea ice there is.

Lieser compared the phenomenon to serving tea in a broken teacup. If the cup is broken, said Lieser, the shards are still there, but it won't be suitable for serving tea anymore.

In the meantime, the process of sea ice freezing has already begun. It usually reaches the yearly peak in March, scientists added.

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