Alaska sees less ice than before


Open water off Alaska’s Seward Peninsula is reflecting warmer-than-average temperatures at a time of year when ice and snow should be keeping things cool.

Scientists from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre recently confirmed there has been less ice on northern Alaskan waters than at any time over the past 20 years, with an “unusually extensive retreat of ice in the Beaufort, Chukchi, East Siberian and Laptev seas” noted during August 2002.

“August 2002 appears different from other low ice extent years in that ice has retreated significantly beyond the historical mean extent in both the Pacific and Atlantic sectors,” the scientists said.

In September 2002, the ice on the Arctic Ocean reached record lows. Ice extended over only 5.27 million square kilometers of the Arctic Ocean — seven to nine million square kilometers is the normal minimum. At its lowest point, ice covered an area measuring only 3.6 million square kilometers.

September’s concentration — or the surface area where there was ice present — was 17 per cent below normal and nine per cent below the previous low record, set in 1998.

Using data collected by various methods since 1950, the National Snow and Ice Data Center concluded that six of the 10 years with the least Arctic ice extent have occurred since 1990. With a 20 per cent reduction in the annual sea ice expected by 2050, this might mean there could be no ice at all in these regions during the summer months within 50 years.

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