Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low

Screen Shot 2012-09-19 at 9.44.57 PMThe record low compared to the average minimum. Photo: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

The extreme melt of Arctic sea ice has stopped for the year, but only after setting a record low for area covered, scientists said. Arctic sea ice covered about 1.32 million square miles on September 16, when scientists said the extent was likely* at its lowest point for the year. That area is difficult to imagine. Picture this: In the lowest previous minimum year for ice extent, 2007, there was an area of ocean the size of Texas covered with additional hard white stuff. Now picture this: The state of Alaska times two. That's the area this year's minimum sea ice extent was smaller than the annual average since measurements were first taken in 1979.

"Climate models have predicted a retreat of the Arctic sea ice; but the actual retreat has proven to be much more rapid than the predictions," said Claire Parkinson, a climate scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "There continues to be considerable interannual variability in the sea ice cover, but the long-term retreat is quite apparent."

In other words, this record low happened sooner and faster than scientists thought it would, and it's definitely part of a trend.

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