New sea ice is finally starting to form again in the Arctic, scientists reported Wednesday, but not before reaching another record low last Sunday.
“We are now in uncharted territory,” Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said in a statement announcing the record low of 1.32 million square miles — nearly half the average extent from 1979 to 2010. The extent has been tracked by satellite since 1979.
“While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic,” he added, “few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur.”
The difference between this year’s low and that of 2007 is 293,000 square miles, about the size of Texas, the center noted in its report.
Meanwhile, conditions favorable to new sea ice are taking longer to appear.
“The strong late season decline is indicative of how thin the ice cover is,” (center scientist Walt) Meier said. “Ice has to be quite thin to continue melting away as the sun goes down and fall approaches.”
The thickness of the ice is also in decline.
“The core of the ice cap is the perennial ice, which normally survived the summer because it was so thick”, Joey Comiso, a NASA scientist who uses satellites to study the ice, said in a statement. “But because it’s been thinning year after year, it has now become vulnerable to melt.”