WASHINGTON — Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its smallest surface area since record-keeping began, taking the world into “uncharted territory” as climate change intensifies, US scientists warned Wednesday.
Satellite images show the ice cap had melted to 1.32 million square miles (3.4 million square kilometers) as of September 16, the predicted lowest point for the year.
That’s the smallest Arctic ice cover since record-keeping began in 1979, the National Snow and Ice Data Center said.
“We are now in uncharted territory,” the center’s director, Mark Serreze, said, in a statement.
“While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur,” he added.
Arctic sea ice expands and contracts seasonally, with the lowest extent usually occurring in September.
This year’s minimum followed a season already full of records for shrinking ice, with lowest ever extents recorded on August 26 and again on September 4.
And in the last two weeks, the ice cover melted by more than 200,000 square miles (518,000 square kilometers), quite a large margin for the end of the summer, the NSIDC said.
“The strong late season decline is indicative of how thin the ice cover is,” said NSIDC scientist Walt Meier.
“Ice has to be quite thin to continue melting away as the sun goes down and fall approaches.”
Scientists use Arctic sea ice extent as an indicator of what’s happening with the overall climate. Despite year-to-year fluctuations from natural weather variations, the ice cap has shown a clear trend towards shrinking over the last 30 years, the NSIDC center said.
“This year’s minimum will be nearly 50% lower than the 1979 to 2000 average,” the statement noted.
The Colorado-based center said the Arctic is shifting in composition. Whereas previously most of the ice stayed frozen through several summers, now much of it melts and refreezes each season.
“Twenty years from now in August you might be able to take a ship right across the Arctic Ocean,” once blocked year-round by ice, said NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve.
Climate models predict “ice free conditions” before 2050, she added, but said the decline appears to be happening faster than predicted.
The NSIDC warned that increased heat and moisture from the melting Arctic ice cover could have global climate implications.
“This will gradually affect climate in the areas where we live,” he said. “We have a less polar pole — and so there will be more variations and extremes.”
Environmental activist group Greenpeace lamented the announcement.
“In just over 30 years we have altered the way our planet looks from space, and soon the North Pole may be completely ice free in summer,” Greenpeace chief Kumi Naidoo, said in a statement.
“I hope that future generations will mark this day as a turning point, when a new spirit of global cooperation emerged to tackle the huge challenges we face,” he added.
The Republican Party resorts to suppressing its own voters after being overrun by Trump: former GOP congressman
In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal this Thursday, former GOP congressman and current 2020 challenger to President Trump, Joe Walsh, argued that Republicans are shutting out any competition to Trump on their 2020 primary ballots, ultimately "disenfranchising GOP voters in eight states—so far."
"The Republican Party apparatus has been bound to one man through power plays and intimidation," Walsh writes. "Since Mr. Trump was elected, 40 Republican state party chairmen have turned over. The party’s leadership is unrecognizable from what it was before Mr. Trump."
According to Walsh, the GOP protecting Trump from primary challengers is a reflection of an infamous Trump personality trait -- a complete disregard for anyone who disagrees with him.
Rick Santorum falls apart during CNN defense of Trump as fellow Republican Charlie Dent laughs
As CNN contributor Rick Santorum struggled to defend Donald Trump's quid pro quo proposal to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday morning, his fellow Pennsylvania Republican, former Rep. Charlie Dent, laughed at his fumbling for answers.
Sitting down with "New Day" host John Berman, Santorum once again attempted to make the case that the president was withholding aid over Ukraine corruption and not because he was seeking dirt on political opponents -- and didn't fare well as Berman kept fact-checking him.
With the two former GOP lawmakers on split-screen, Santorum refused to concede that the president was asking for a personal favor during the phone-call that eventually led to a House impeachment inquiry into the president's actions.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Austria shreds Trump allies for giving Putin their ‘enthusiastic help’
Olexander Scherba, who currently serves as Ukraine's ambassador to Austria, sent out a scathing tweet on Friday excoriating allies of President Donald Trump who seem hellbent on helping Russian President Vladimir Putin reassert Russia's dominance over Eastern Europe.
In his tweet, Scherba explained the scope of Putin's ambitions, which he said went far beyond seizing Ukrainian territory.
"Putin isn’t just fighting Ukraine," he wrote. "He is fighting the whole world order, created by Reagan."
The ambassador then turned his attention to American supporters of President Donald Trump who have been cheering Putin's actions.