for National Geographic News
There is less sea ice in the Arctic than ever before recorded, thanks in part to a warm, sunny summer, a climate scientist said today. And the melting season isn't even over.
On Sunday the sea ice extent was measured at 1.93 million square miles (5.01 million square kilometers).
"It's continuing to go down at a rapid pace," said Mark Serreze, a senior scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
The previous minimum record—set on September 21, 2005—was 2.05 million square miles (5.32 million square kilometers).
By the end of this summer, scientists at the center say, Arctic sea ice may drop below 1.74 million square miles (4.5 million square kilometers).
Bruno Tremblay is an assistant professor of ocean and atmospheric sciences at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who is planning a research cruise to the Russian Arctic in September.
In preparation for the trip, he has been observing updated maps of the sea ice extent, which show the quickly melting ice.
"I never thought it would go that low that fast," Tremblay said. "There's still a month of melting in front of us, and we're already past the record of 2005."
Sea ice—frozen, floating seawater—melts and refreezes with the seasons, but some of the ice persists year-round in the Arctic.
The current rate of sea ice melt is much faster than predicted by computer models of the global climate system.
Just last year the National Snow and Ice Data Center's Serreze said that the Arctic was "right on schedule" to be completely free of ice by 2070 at the soonest. He now thinks that day may arrive by 2030.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES