2009 Arctic Summer Sea Ice Minimum Third Lowest on Record - 'Well Outside' Natural Variability

So the data's in from the National Snow and Ice Data Center on this year's Arctic summer sea ice melting and though this year's retreat wasn't as pronounced in the past two, it is the third largest since records began being kept in 1979, and "still below the long-term average, and well outside the range of natural variability."

The actual lowest point of the year occurred on September 12th when the extent of sea ice was 5.1 million square kilometers (1.97 million square miles) -- this was some 580,000 square kilometers above last year's minimum and 970,000 square kilometers above the record set in 2007.Scientists say there was no new record set this year because summer temperatures were cooler than in the past two summers and because winds tended to disperse ice over a larger region.

No Recovery in Sight, Further Declines to Come
That said, scientists emphasize that they do not consider this to be a recover. This year's minimum is still 24% below the average from 1979-2000 and 20% below the thirty year average. Furthermore the Arctic remains dominated by thinner ice, which means declines in summer ice extent are expected to continue in future years.

In 5 Years There'll Just Be an 'Alamo of Ice' Left
This news led Dr Peter Wadhams, a scientist from the University of Cambridge monitoring Arctic ice melt, to say,

We're entering a new epoch of sea ice melt in the Arctic Ocean due to climate change. In five years' time most of the sea ice could be gone in summer with just an 'Alamo of ice' remaining north of Ellesmere Island. In 20 years' time, that will also be gone, leaving the Arctic Ocean completely ice-free in summer.

It's clear we can't rely on current models of prediction for sea-ice melt, as they have been constantly outpaced since the 1980s.(Greenpeace)

More: National Snow and Ice Data Center
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Tags: Arctic | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects