NORTHWEST PASSAGE OPEN AS SEA ICE REACHES LOWEST COVER EVER

Arctic sea ice cover fell to its lowest level on record researchers from the University of Bremen reported according to Mongabay.com on September 12, 2011.

Analyzing data from NASA’s Aqua satellite, Georg Heygster and colleagues found that Arctic sea ice fell to a record low of 4.24 million square kilometers on September 8, about 27,000 square kilometers than the previous record set roughly four years ago.

Heygster said this year’s mark is “most probably” the lowest Arctic sea ice extent “since the last climate optimum about 8,000 years ago.” He added that the record could be extended if sea ice continues to melt in coming weeks. Sea ice is no longer melting from the surface; instead if it melting from underneath due to warmer water below.

The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which tracks sea ice using a different methodology, is expected to release an update on sea ice extent later this month. Its last update showed sea ice coverage at 4.3 million square kilometers.

Themelting opened the Northwest Passage to navigation again this summer. The ice retreat has set off a scramble between Canada, Russia, the U.S., Denmark and Norway which are all seeking to claim rights to the Arctic’s rich mineral and gas deposits. Preparations are under way in the Arctic countries for a growing sea traffic through the Northwest and Northeast Passages.

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