The Arctic sea ice has hit its lowest extent ever recorded, according to the US-based National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Norwegian, Danish and other government monitoring organisations.
With possibly two weeks’ further melt likely before the ice reaches its minimum extent and starts to refreeze ahead of the winter, satellites showed it had shrunk to 4.1m sq km (1.6m sq miles) on Sunday. The previous record of 4.3m sq km was set in 2007. The Guardian reported earlier this month that such a record low was likely to be hit imminently.
NSIDC scientist Walt Meier said: “This is an indication that the Arctic sea ice cover is fundamentally changing.”
“The previous record, set in 2007, occurred because of near perfect summer weather for melting ice. Apart from one big storm in early August, weather patterns this year were unremarkable. The ice is so thin and weak now, it doesn’t matter how the winds blow,” said the NSIDC director, Mark Serreze.
The record is widely seen by scientists at the NSIDC and elsewhere as a strong signal of long-term climate warming.
“The Arctic used to be dominated by multiyear ice, or ice that stayed around for several years,” Meier said. “Now it’s becoming more of a seasonal ice cover and large areas are now prone to melting out in summer,” said Serreze.