Arctic sea ice minimum ties record for second lowest

The lowest level ever recorded was on 17 September 2012, when ice covered just 3.39 million sq/km.

Animation shows Arctic sea ice extent from 1979 through September 13, 2016.

In the Hudson Bay area of northern Canada, polar bear populations have declined overall, and survival of young bears is lower when sea ice melts earlier. "Conservation action to preserve the Arctic is urgently needed to keep up with these rapid changes".

"It is hard to predict how Arctic ecosystems will respond to decreasing sea ice extent, but we are seeing more species moving in to take advantage of warming Arctic waters, and specialized Arctic species such as polar bears showing signs of stress in some regions", says Melanie Lancaster of WWF's Arctic Programme.

Arctic sea ice appeared to have reached its annual lowest extent on September 10, NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder reported today.

"The 10 lowest extents have all occurred within the last decade, suggesting a new "normal" for the Arctic with significantly less summer ice than just two or three decades ago".

Sea ice regrows during the frigid fall and winter months, when the sun is below the horizon in the Arctic. Ice younger than four years comprised 97 percent of all Arctic sea ice in 2015 compared to 80 percent in 1985. Right now, sea ice covers 1.60 Million square miles.

"We won't know for sure until next month, because the ice pack tends to thin for a few more weeks before it starts to refreeze". "To think that in this record of Arctic sea ice that goes back to the late 1970s, since 1986 there hasn't been a single record high in any month of the year, and yet, over that same period, there have been 75 record lows".

Experts from Nasa in the United States added that the melt season began with a record low extent of ice in March and saw rapid ice loss throughout May, but in June and July low pressure and cloudy skies slowed down melting.

The researchers actually appeared to express a bit of surprise that 2016 didn't stand out more in September, given how dramatically low ice extent was earlier in the year, and given evidence that the ice was also very thin and the ocean very warm. "The record makes it clear that the ice is not rebounding to where it used to be, even in the midst of the winter", Parkinson said.

But even the lower temperatures didn't reduce the amount of ice lost. In the almost four decades of satellite monitoring, sea ice has disappeared at a clip of 13.4 percent per decade.

Sea ice extent for July was 8.13m sq km, making it the third lowest on record, at around 190,000 sq km greater than 2011.

Huge areas of the normally ice-bound Beaufort, Chukchi, Laptev and East Siberian seas were open and exposed to the warmth of a summer that has grown hotter and hotter in recent years.

  • Essie Rivera