Scientists say Arctic sea ice has plummeted to its lowest levels ever this year. Photgraph: Steven J Kazlowski/Alamy
Scientists say that the latest observations suggest that Arctic sea ice cover is continuing to shrink and thin
Satellite observations show the extent of the floating ice that melts and refreezes every year was 318,000 square miles less last week than the same day period in 2007, the year of record low extent, and the lowest observed at this time of year since records began in 1979. Separate observations by University of Washington researchers suggest that the volume of Arctic sea ice is also the smallest ever calculated for this time of year.
Scientists cautioned that it is still early in the “melt season”, but said that the latest observations suggest that the Arctic sea ice cover is continuing to shrink and thin and the pattern of record annual melts seen since 2000 is now well established. Last year saw the second greatest sea ice melt on record, 36% below the average minimum from 1979-2000.
"Recent ice loss rates have been 100,000 to 150,000 square kilometres (38,600 to 57,900 square miles) per day, which is more than double the climatological rate. While the extent is at a record low for the date, it is still early in the melt season. Changing weather patterns throughout the summer will affect the exact trajectory of the sea ice extent through the rest of the melt season," said a spokesman for the NSIDC.
The increased melting is believed to be a result of climate change. Arctic temperatures have risen more than twice as fast as the global average over the past half century.