Happening Now: Arctic Sea Ice Sets Record Low
NARRATOR: Recent analysis on Arctic sea ice conditions paints a grim picture. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the summer sea ice minimum extent has dropped to its smallest size in recorded history. It’s now 3.41 million square kilometers or 1.32 million square miles.
The coverage of sea ice was relatively stable from 1979 – 2000, but has since been reduced by nearly 50%.
While record lows are bound to be set on occasion, scientists agree that these measurements indicate that the Arctic's sea ice cover is fundamentally changing.
This chart shows the disturbing trend over the last thirty years. The sea ice extent at the end of the melt season is on a decline.
And not only is the ice extent getting smaller, but the ice is also thinning at an alarming rate.
In fact, some computer models project we are on track to see an ice-free summer within twenty years. That’s forty to fifty years earlier than previously forecast.
The more the ice melts, the more ocean surface is exposed that can absorb heat from the sun. This warms the water and the region even further, melting even more ice.
This scenario has direct consequences.
A warmer Arctic accelerates the melting of Greenland's ice sheet. This ice sheet is currently 1.9 miles thick and contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by about 25 feet.
Less sea ice and warmer ocean water also affect atmospheric patterns, like the jet stream, and may lead to more extreme summer and winter weather events in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
So, what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. The disappearance of summer sea ice cover is one of the most visible warning signs of severe climate change and will have consequences that are felt all over the world.