Monthly August ice extent from 1979-2015 shows a decline of 10.3% per decade.

© National Snow and Ice Data Center

9/9/2015 5:39:44 PM

Arctic Sea Ice Melting Fast

Once again, Arctic sea ice is melting faster than usual.  

According to experts, sea ice was melting fast enough by the end of August to possibly open a deep water route in Northwest Canada for the first time since 2007. 

The National Snow and Ice Data Center wrote in its monthly report, "August saw a remarkably steady decline in Arctic sea ice extent, at a rate slightly faster than the long-term average. Forecasts show that this year's minimum sea ice extent, which typically occurs in mid to late September, is likely to be the third or fourth lowest in the satellite record."

Average sea ice extent for August 2015 was 5.61 million square kilometers (2.16 million square miles), the fourth lowest August extent in the satellite record. This is 1.61 million square kilometers (621,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average for the month, and 900,000 square kilometers (350,000 square miles) above the record low for August, set in 2012.

"While the impacts of receding and thinning ice on Arctic life will vary over time and by region, most people understand that loss of habitat ultimately leads to loss of species that rely on it," said Polar Bears International's Senior Director of Conservation, Geoff York.

Only a small portion of the M'Clure Strait passage through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago was blocked by ice at the end of August, according to the NSIDC report. And if the ice continues to retreat as fast as it has in the last few weeks, the passage, which is a better route for big ships than the shallower Northwest Passage, could open within a week.

"Normally that's the one that's closed entirely in September," NSIDC Director Mark Serreze said. "If you're trying to take a big ship through there, you'd want to use this deepwater passage."

Read more: National Snow and Ice Data Center, Steady decline, seasonal minimum approaching


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