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Arctic Ice Extent to Hit Record Low by End of August 2012

Arctic ice’s current extent (orange line represents values for 1979-2000)

The Arctic sea ice, one of the most important markers in the evolution of climate change, is about to hit a new record low level by the end of August. Satellite data interpreted by the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center confirmed that this will be happening for the first time since 2007 and that the ice will continue to melt until mid- to late September.

The scientists used a measurement called “sea ice extent,” which refers to a part of the Arctic Ocean that contains ice. The places where the ice extent is lower than 15% are considered to mark the ice edge.

On August 13, the ice extent was 186,000 square miles below the 2007 value, and will continue to go even lower during the next years.

The observations have been made by using Cryosat, a spaceborne radar operated by the European Space Agency (ESA) since 2010 and which measures the thickness of polar ice and also its shape.

The new record brought a pessimistic wave. Before 2007, it was thought that the Arctic ice will continue exist during the summer until 2100. That year, after the record low, they changed the figure to the interval 2030-2040. Now, they’ll lower the estimation even more (n.a. 2020, maybe?).

The Arctic ice’s importance is given by its ability to reflect solar light and heat back into space. Once gone, light coming from outer space will hit the black bottom of the ocean and will contribute to its warming.

At the same time, the melting of the ice will bring to the surface big quantities of methane and other powerful greenhouse gases, which will push the heat-trapping phenomenon even beyond expectations.

[via bbc]

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  1. From my understanding the Earths axis has a bit of a wobble and every 25000 years or so you get a bit more tilt towards the sun. Has anyone ever thought this might be the cause for the increase in global temps?


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