‘Drastic’ shrinkage in Arctic ice

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

A Nasa satellite has documented startling changes in Arctic sea ice cover between 2004 and 2005. The extent of “perennial” ice – thick ice which remains all year round – declined by 14%, losing an area the size of Pakistan or Turkey.

The last few decades have seen summer ice shrink by about 0.7% per year.

The drastic shrinkage may relate partly to unusual wind patterns found in 2005, though rising temperatures in the Arctic could also be a factor.

The research is reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.The Arctic is warming about twice as fast as the global average; and recent studies have shown that the area of the Arctic covered by ice each summer, and the ice thickness, have been shrinking.

September 2005 saw the lowest recorded area of ice cover since 1978, when satellite records became available.

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