Home > Uncategorized > Arctic sea ice just hit a record low. Here’s why it matters.

Arctic sea ice just hit a record low. Here’s why it matters.

The Arctic Ocean’s vast, frozen expanse of ice is rapidly vanishing. On Monday, scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that the extent of sea ice in the Arctic had reached its lowest level since satellite measurements began, breaking the previous record in 2007. That’s particularly striking because the summer melting season still has about two more weeks to go.

Current extent of Arctic sea ice. The line shows the average minimum extent from 1979 to 2010. (NASA Goddard Flight Center)

It’s clear that Arctic sea ice is now shriveling more quickly each year. And scientists say the melt has been driven by both global warming and other pollutants that humans have put into the atmosphere. So why does the disappearing sea ice actually matter? Partly it’s a sign of how quickly we’re heating the planet. Yet the vanishing sea ice can also have its own side effects, from warming up the Arctic further to unlocking once-frozen areas of the north for oil and gas exploration. Below is a rundown of what we know about Arctic sea ice and why it’s worth watching.

1) The amount of Arctic sea ice is shrinking each year — and will soon disappear altogether in the summer months if the planet keeps warming. Since the 1980s, agencies around the world have deployed satellites to measure the extent of Arctic sea ice (this is the amount of ocean area that’s at least 15 percent ice). This chart from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows a marked trend over time:

via Arctic sea ice just hit a record low. Here’s why it matters..

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