Arctic Ice Third-smallest on Record
The Arctic's sea ice pack thawed to its third-lowest summer level on record, up slightly from the seasonal melt of the past two years but continuing an overall decline symptomatic of climate change, U.S. scientists said on Thursday.
The range of ocean remaining frozen over the northern polar region reached its minimum extent for 2009 on September 12, when it covered 1.97 million square miles (5.1 million square km), and now appears to be growing again as the Arctic starts its annual cool-down, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported.
That level falls 20 percent below the 30-year average minimum ice cover for the Arctic summer since satellites began measuring it in 1979, and 24 percent less than the 1979-2000 average, the Colorado-based government agency said.
This summer's minimum represents a loss about about two-thirds of the sea ice measured at the height of Arctic winter in March. By comparison, the Arctic ice shelf typically shrank by a little more than half each summer during the 1980s and 1990s, ice scientist Walt Meier said.
The lowest point on record was reached in September 2007, and the 2009 minimum ranks as the third smallest behind last year's level. But scientists said they do not consider the slight upward fluctuation again this summer to be a recovery.