Examiner 28 AUG 2012
With still two to three weeks left in its melt season, new data has confirmed that Arctic sea ice has melted to an all-time low since record keeping began. The data, collected by the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, is concerning news.
Arctic sea ice melts in an annual cycle, growing during the winter and reaching its greatest mass by March. Then the ice begins melting through mid-September, when the ice reaches its lowest extent. Ice then begins to reform again. This year it has hit its record low point with still two to three weeks left in the melting season.
Scientists say that the loss of the reflective ice could result in even warmer surface temperatures here on Earth.
Because the sea ice is white, it reflects 80 percent of the sunlight that strikes it back into space. When sea ice melts, the darker ocean below the ice absorbs about 90 percent of the energy. This cycle, once started, ends up melting even more ice as the oceans warm. This in turn releases methane from the permafrost and Co2 which will lead to more global warming and higher temperatures here on Earth.
With an already startling amount of methane being released into the atmosphere from the melting of the permafrost, higher temperatures will create a vicious cycle of warming on the planet.
NSIDC scientist Walt Meier said, "By itself it's just a number, and occasionally records are going to get set. But in the context of what's happened in the last several years and throughout the satellite record, it's an indication that the Arctic sea ice cover is fundamentally changing."
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