Photo credit: npr.org
Rising temperatures in the Arctic shrank the ice covering the polar ocean this year to its second-lowest extent in four decades, says report.
Each year, Arctic sea ice goes through a seasonal cycle, growing in area and thickness through the cooler winter months before shrinking back again as temperatures rise in the spring and summer.
Satellites recorded this year’s sea ice minimum at 3.74m sq km on 15 September, only the second time the ice has been measured below 4m sq km in 40 years of record keeping, said researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
The record low of 3.41m sq km, reached in 2012 after a late-season cyclonic storm broke up the remaining ice, is not much below what researchers see today.
As the Arctic sea ice vanishes, it leaves patches of dark water open. Those dark waters absorb solar radiation rather than reflecting it back out of the atmosphere, a process that amplifies warming and helps to explain why Arctic temperatures have risen more than twice as fast as the rest of the world over the last 30 years.