Arctic sea ice is melting fast

NASA recently released this photo showing our home planet from an unfamiliar angle, focusing on the white beauty of the Arctic. Photo: NASA

We could be facing another record low level of ice in the Arctic this summer. After a period of rapid ice loss through the first half of June, sea ice extent is now slightly below 2010 levels, the previous record low at this time of year.


The summer of 2007 saw the smallest Arctic summertime ice extent since satellite record keeping began in the 1970s. As of June 2012, with summer 2012 just beginning, ice is melting faster than at this same time in 2007.

On June 18, the five-day average sea ice extent was 10.62 million square kilometers. This was 31,000 square kilometers below the same day in 2010, the record low for the day and 824,000 square kilometers below the same day in 2007, the year of record low September extent, the National Snow & Ica Date Center (NSIDC) reports.

In February NSIDC reported that the ice extent in the Barents Sea reached the lowest level recorded since satellite surveillance started. Air temperatures over the Laptev, Kara and Barents seas ranged from 4 to 8 degrees Celsius above average in January-February.

The main contributors to the unusually rapid ice loss to this point in June are the disappearance of most of the winter sea ice in the Bering Sea, rapid ice loss in the Barents and Kara Seas, and early development of open water areas in the Beaufort and Laptev Seas north of Alaska and Siberia.

Historically, the ice reaches its minimum extent between the first week of September and around the end of the third week of the month, Walt Meier, a research scientist at NSIDC says to Discovery News. “We are seeing a lot of areas opening up within the Arctic Ocean, and along coastlines that normally are still ice covered,” Meier said.