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Arctic sea ice update: Unlikely to break records, but continuing downward trend

23 August 2013

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The melting of sea ice in the Arctic is well on its way toward its annual "minimum," that time when the floating ice cap covers less of the Arctic Ocean than at any other period during the year. While the ice will continue to shrink until around mid-September, it is unlikely that this year's summer low will break a new record. Still, this year's melt rates are in line with the sustained decline of the Arctic ice cover observed by NASA and other satellites over the last several decades.

"Even if this year ends up being the sixth- or seventh-lowest extent, what matters is that the 10 lowest extents recorded have happened during the last 10 years," said Walt Meier, a glaciologist with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The long-term trend is strongly downward."

The icy cover of the Arctic Ocean was measured at 2.25 million square miles (5.83 million square kilometres) on 21 August. For comparison, the smallest Arctic sea ice extent on record for this date, recorded in 2012, was 1.67 million square miles (4.34 million square kilometres), and the largest recorded for this date was in 1996, when ice covered 3.16 millions square miles (8.2 million square kilometres) of the Arctic Ocean.

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

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