Money Matters - Simplified

Arctic sea ice recedes to 2nd lowest level -- report

The sea ice around the North Pole has touched its lowest level at 1.67 million square miles as of Sept. 9.

Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its second-lowest level on record, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) revealed last week.

According to the Colorado-based center that tracks this trend, the frozen Arctic has melted to its second lowest level since satellites began measuring it in 1979.

Grave fears over Arctic ice receding
NSIDC says that Arctic ice melt has passed its annual minimum this year, as the sea ice around the North Pole has touched its lowest level at 1.67 million square miles as of Sept. 9.

That is the second lowest level since the center began tracking the ice mass by satellite more than 30 years ago. The lowest level was 1.61 million square miles in 2007.

"What it's telling us is that the long-term decline in Arctic sea ice is continuing, and even appears to be accelerating at this point," said Mark Serreze, who heads the NSIDC in Colorado.

The measurement released Thursday is based on preliminary results, and the NSIDC will issue a more detailed analysis during the first week of October.

Change in nature of ice
Over the past few years, analysts have been noticing change in the nature of Arctic ice.

The analysis shows that it has changed from consolidated mass, which melted from the edges, to more dispersed ice, which is less hardy than multi-year ice and is more prone to melt.

"The last five years (2007 to 2011) have been the five lowest extents in the continuous satellite record, which extends back to 1979," the NSIDC said.

"While the record low year of 2007 was marked by a combination of weather conditions that favored ice loss... this year has shown more typical weather patterns but continued warmth over the Arctic," it added.

Final numbers will release in October
The measurement released Thursday is based on preliminary results, and the NSIDC will issue a more detailed analysis during the first week of October.

According to NSIDC researchers, "changing winds could still push ice flows together reducing ice extend further," leading to a different figure when full analysis is released in early October.