Tuesday 28 August 2012, 16:20
The extent of sea ice in the Arctic region has dropped sharply in the last few months.
Only in April, Arctic sea ice had staged an impressive recovery and was close to the 1979-2012 average, reaching levels not seen in April for over 10 years.
But yesterday, the National Snow and Ice data centre reported that the extent of Arctic sea ice shrank to 1.58 million square miles, breaking the previous record set in the summer of 2007, based on satellite data which was first gathered in 1979.
Including this year, the six lowest ice extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last six years.
The big worry is that continued melting sea ice would cause serious feedback mechanisms to kick-in.
Firstly with less sea ice to reflect incoming solar radiation back into space, the sea will warm more quickly than would otherwise be the case, speeding up global warming.
And secondly, natural methane trapped under the sea-bed by permafrost could be released. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and would also accelerate global warming.
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