Scientists studying arctic-ice coverage by satellite say that melting in 2011 is approaching the record low measured in 2007, when only 1.61 million square miles in the Arctic Ocean had ice coverage of 15 percent or more. Areas with coverage above 15 percent are now at 1.68 million acres, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, with some melting expected to continue into late September. Earlier reports have suggested that melting this year occurred Ice coverage has declined precipitously since 1979, when satellite measurement first began, and 2011's coverage is one third lower than the 21-year average from 1979 through 2000. Melting ice is a both a consequence and cause of climate change: warmer temperatures melt ice, which scientists believe alters wind patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, likely causing colder winters in Great Britain and disrupting animal habitats and vegetation in the far north. Another study released earlier this month suggested that ice coverage in 2011 had exceeded the 2007 record low. Some scientists believe that Arctic ice may disappear in summer months within a decade.
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