Sea level pressure may have slowed Arctic ice melt, but region is still in trouble

This year's Arctic sea ice extent, while higher than previous years, is still much lower than it has been in the past.

Billy Kirk | Sep 25, 2017

While this year's Arctic sea ice melt was less than previous years, the low levels are still a major cause for concern.

A group of researchers from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) found that the sea ice extent at the end of the annual summer melt measured 1.79 million square miles. That is 610,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average for the same date, and it is 193,000 square miles above 2016's minimum. Even so, the ice levels still measured as the eight lowest in the 38-year satellite record.

The team believes the ice melt has slowed down as the result of low sea level pressure over the central Arctic Ocean. Sea ice typically melts during the summer -- dropping to lowest point in September -- before cold conditions cause levels to rise back up during the winter months. In this case, strange weather shifts have caused the typical cycles to move out of place.

"How much ice is left at the end of summer in any given year depends on both the state of the ice cover earlier in the year and the weather conditions affecting the ice,"explained Claire Parkinson, senior climate scientist at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center, according to International Business Times UK.

The summer minimum sea ice extent has shrunk by an area roughly a quarter of the size of Europe in the last 30 years. At that pace, the region could lose all summer ice within the next generation. This is concerning from an ecological standpoint, and it could also threaten both the people and animals who depend on the area for natural resources.

"From space, the loss of Arctic sea ice is the clearest and most visible sign of climate change, and human beings are responsible for most of it," said Rod Downie, head of polar programs at environmental charity WWF, according to The Weather Channel. "We are engineering our planet and its climate."

Researchers hope the new study will provide more information on sea ice extent and lead to more efforts to both stop the melting and reduce emissions. It is a tough battle, but scientists believe melting can be prevented with the right actions.

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