4th Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic
on Naval and Maritime Operations
Arctic Sea Ice Reaches the 3rd Lowest Extent on Record - Animation
(courtesy of the NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab)
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Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean melts to its lowest extents around the 15th
of September each year. Since 1979, satellites have been used to closely
monitor these dynamics of ice growth and retreat - since not only is sea
ice important in determining global climate and weather patterns, but also
for commerce, transportation, and national security. With these careful
satellite measurements, scientists have documented an almost 9% decrease
in ice extent per decade. And though some years experience ice extent
levels greater than the previous year, in general there has been a
dramatic annual decline in Arctic ice.
In 2010, these trends continued making this year the third lowest sea
ice extent ever measured by satellite. Only 2007 and 2008 had a lesser
amount during the September minimum. In 2010, ice extent around the
September 15th minimum was 22% below the average minimum of the past 30
years. To put it in perspective, a loss of 22% of the contiguous U.S.
would be equivalent to losing all of the land area in the New England,
Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Appalachian states. Not only is area of sea
ice at near record low levels, but also the thickness and concentrations
are equally low.