Arctic summer sea ice melted in 2020 to become the second smallest area since records began 42 years ago, American scientists announced Monday, offering clearer evidence of the impact of global warming.
Arctic sea ice melts in summer and reforms in winter, but accurate satellite images taken regularly since 1979 have documented how the cycle has slowed significantly.
The year’s low was reached on Sept. 15, at 3.74 million square kilometers (1.44 million square miles), according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder.
“It’s been a crazy year in the north, with sea ice at a near record low … heat waves in Siberia and massive wildfires,” said Mark Serreze, director of NSIDC.
“The year 2020 will be an exclamation point about the downward trend in the extent of Arctic sea ice. We are heading towards a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean, and this year is another nail in the coffin. “
Unlike melting glaciers on land, melting sea ice does not directly contribute to sea level rise, as the ice is already in the water, but less ice means less solar radiation is reflected and more is absorbed by the oceans, heating them.
“The rapid disappearance of sea ice is a sobering indicator of how close our planet is surrounding the drain,” said Laura Meller, an activist for Greenpeace Nordic Oceans, in a statement issued from a boat on the edge of the sea ice.
“As the Arctic melts, the ocean will absorb more heat and we will all be more exposed to the devastating effects of climate collapse.
“We need to hit the reset button right now on how we take care of each other and our planet by protecting at least 30 percent of our oceans by 2030 to help our planet cope with climate collapse.”
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