Brisbane: German researchers have revealed that the area covered by Arctic sea ice reached its lowest point this week since the start of satellite observations in 1972.
“On September 8, the extent of the Arctic sea ice was 4.240 million square kilometres. This is a new historic minimum,” the Brisbane Times quoted Georg Heygster, head of the Physical Analysis of Remote Sensing Images unit at the University of Bremen’s Institute of Environmental Physics, as saying.
The new mark is about half-a-per cent under his team’s measurements of the previous record, which occurred on September 16, 2007, he said.
But according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), the record set on that date was 4.1 million sq km.
The discrepancy, Heygster explained, was due to slightly different data sets and algorithms.
“But the results are internally consistent in both cases,” he said.
Arctic ice cover plays a critical role in regulating Earth’s climate by reflecting sunlight and keeping the polar region cool.
Retreating summer sea ice -- 50 per cent smaller in area than four decades ago -- is described by scientists as both a measure and a driver of global warming, with negative impacts on a local and planetary scale.
It is also further evidence of a strong human imprint on climate patterns in recent decades, the researchers said.
First Published: Sunday, September 11, 2011, 14:45