- Experts have been using satellite data to monitor Arctic sea ice since 1978
- Snow cover waxes and decreases annually — reaching a minimum in September
- However, four decades of records have revealed a significant drop in coverage.
- NASA said annual minimum is decreasing by about 13.1% annually
Sea ice in the Arctic fell to an area of just 1.82 million square miles on September 16 – its twelfth-lowest extent on record, NASA has revealed.
Experts from the US Space Agency and the National Snow and Ice Data Center have used satellites to monitor minimum sea ice coverage each summer since 1978.
Every year in spring and summer the snow decreases, reaching its lowest level in September.
However, the record laying bare the catastrophic toll climate change is taking on the planet has seen a significant decline over the past 43 years.
In fact, the past 15 years have exhibited 15 very minimal expansions since satellite measurements began.
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Sea ice in the Arctic fell to an area of just 1.82 million square miles on September 16 – its twelfth-lowest extent on record, NASA has revealed. Image: This year’s sea ice minimum area, compared to the mean summer minimum for 1981–2010 (shown in yellow)
Experts from the US Space Agency and the National Snow and Ice Data Center have used satellites to monitor minimum sea ice coverage each summer since 1978 (as depicted)
Data for visualization in the NASA video above was provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Global Change Observation Mission first-water satellite (pictured).
Sea ice: everything you need to know
Sea ice is formed by the freezing of sea water and, due to its low density, floats on the surface of the water.
It is estimated to cover about 7 percent of the Earth’s surface and about 12 percent of the world’s oceans.
The lion’s share of sea ice is contained within polar ice packs in the Arctic and Southern Oceans.
These ice packs undergo seasonal variations and are affected by fluctuations in wind, current and temperature locally on even smaller time scales.
According to NASA, the September Arctic sea ice minimum expansion is currently declining at a rate of 13.1 percent each decade relative to the 1981-2010 average.
The researchers explained that the extent of Arctic sea ice is defined as an area in which the ice concentration is at least 15 percent.
The data for the visualization in the NASA video above was provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Global Change Observation Mission 1-Water ‘Shizuku’ (GCOM-W1) satellite, which began operation back in 2012.
The news comes in the wake of a report backed by the European Commission that warned that global sea levels were rising at an “alarming rate” of 0.12 inches per year.
The fifth iteration of the Copernicus Marine Service’s ‘Ocean State Report’ was produced using a combination of satellite observations, measurements at various ocean locations around the world, and a series of computer models.
The report shows how the ocean is changing and its consequences, including ocean warming, loss of sea ice and rising sea levels.
The amount of sea ice in the Arctic is well below average and is declining rapidly. In fact, Arctic sea ice has seen a steady decline in expansion and thickness over the past thirty years. Summer (September) sea ice has followed a decreasing trend of -12.89 percent per decade, with record levels of sea ice decreasing over the past two years.
Experts found that warming oceans and melting of land ice are causing sea levels to rise at a rate unprecedented at any time in the last century.
The report also showed that the average extent of Arctic sea ice is shrinking, losing an area roughly the size of Germany in the period from 1979 to 2020.
According to Alex Arnoll, an environmental geographer at the University of Reading who was not involved in the current study, rising sea levels are no longer a ‘problem of the future’ and are already affecting coastal communities around the world.
Report shows how the ocean is changing and its consequences – including ocean warming, loss of sea ice (pictured) and rising sea levels
Climate change, pollution and overexploitation have put unprecedented pressure on the ocean, which makes up 71 percent of Earth’s surface, said Karina von Schuchmann, an oceanographer with the Copernicus Marine Service.
“It is also responsible for controlling the Earth’s climate and sustaining life,” he said.
‘Accurate and timely monitoring and reporting is critical to understanding the ocean so that we can adapt to its changes.
‘The Ocean State report highlights the need for governance to help us all work together to adapt to reduce harmful impacts and protect this most precious resource and its ecosystem.’
The full conclusions of the Ocean State report were published on Copernicus Marine Service Website.
What are the effects of low sea ice levels?
As winter approaches, the amount of Arctic sea ice reaches a peak around March.
NASA recently announced that the maximum amount of sea ice was low this year, following three other record-low measurements taken in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
This can lead to many negative effects that affect climate, weather patterns, plant and animal life, and indigenous human communities.
The amount of sea ice in the Arctic is declining, and it has dangerous consequences, NASA says
Additionally, the disappearing ice could alter shipping routes and affect coastal erosion and ocean circulation.
NASA researcher Claire Parkinson said: ‘Arctic sea ice cover is in a decreasing trend and is associated with ongoing warming of the Arctic.
‘It’s a two-way street: warming means less snow is going to be formed and more ice is going to melt, but, because there is less snow, less solar radiation is reflected from the incident sun, and …