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Arctic ice cover second-lowest on record

Posted by feww on August 28, 2008

The extent of Arctic ice is now 10 percent lower than the 1997-2000 period

Arctic sea ice cover shrank to its second-lowest level ever and could set a new low by the and of this year’s melt season. The worst affected area is the Chukchi Sea, home to one of the world’s largest polar bear populations, as well as large oil and gas fields.


Daily Arctic sea ice extent for August 26, 2008, fell below the 2005 minimum, which was 5.32 million square kilometers (2.05 million square miles). The orange line shows the 1979 to 2000 average extent for that day. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole. Sea Ice Index data. —Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Arctic sea ice extent has declined 2.06 million sq km since the beginning of August. On August 26 sea ice extent stood at 5.26 million sq km, below the 2005 minimum of 5.32 sq km set on September 21 of that year, the second-lowest extent observed by satellite, said National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.

In 2007 the ice cover melt to its lowest recorded minimum of 4.12 million sq km opening the the Northwest Passage  for the first time on record.

“No matter where we stand at the end of the melt season it’s just reinforcing this notion that Arctic ice is in its death spiral,” said Mark Serreze, a scientist at NSIDC.

Loss of summer Arctic ice could have far-reaching implications for wildlife, especially the polar bear and walrus, which depend on ice shelves to hunt for food.

With more Arctic ice melting, the bears have to swim farther to find suitable ice shelves for hunting. The longer they swim in open waters, despite being capable swimmers, the more likely they get into trouble. A number of bears are known to have been drowned in the recent years.


A polar bear is seen in the water during an aerial survey off the Alaska coast in this photo taken August 15, 2008. Arctic sea ice shrank to its second-lowest level ever, U.S. scientists said on Wednesday, with particular melting in the Chukchi Sea, where at least 12 polar bears were recently seen swimming far off the Alaskan coast. REUTERS/Geoff York/World Wildlife Fund/Handout.

Interestingly, the state of Alaska is suing the federal government because it says listing polar bears as a threatened species is hurting Alaskan oil and gas exploration and development, commercial fisheries, transportation and tourism. In other words, the polar bears had no right to be there!

“We believe that … decision to list the polar bear was not based on the best scientific and commercial data available,” said Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Will 2008 also break the standing record low set in 2007? We will know soon—there are still a few weeks left to the end of melt season!

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4 Responses to “Arctic ice cover second-lowest on record”

  1. […] As previously reported, Arctic sea ice extent for 2008 melt season as measured by satellite was the second-lowest level since 1979, reaching the lowest point on September 14, 2008. Average sea ice extent over the month of September, a standard measure in the scientific study of Arctic sea ice, was 4.67 million square kilometers. The record monthly low was 4.28 million square kilometers set in September 2007. […]

  2. […] Arctic ice cover second-lowest on record […]

  3. […] All About Big… on Hilarious Polar Bear News…It’s All About Big… on Arctic ice cover second-lowest…It’s All About Big… on 3 million acres of spruce kill…Gustav spares New Or… […]

  4. […] Arctic ice cover second-lowest on record […]

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