Arctic sea ice finishes melt season

Aviation Maintenance Tech 2 John Ferrari looks out of the back of a Coast Guard C-130 as he surveys the ice off of the coast of Barrow, Alaska, during a surveillance flight to the Arctic on Thursday Aug. 7, 2008.

The Arctic has finished its ice melt for the year, shrinking to its second-lowest size in a generation, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

"While above the record minimum set on Sept. 16, 2007, this year further reinforces the strong negative trend in summertime ice extent observed over the past 30 years," the U.S.-based agency said in a release Tuesday.

The centre reported that daily Arctic sea ice for Sept. 12 was 4.5 million square kilometres.

That appears to be the lowest point of the year. The ice has now started its annual cycle of growth in response to autumn cooling.

The 2008 minimum is the second-lowest recorded since 1979, and is 2.2 million sq. kilometres below the 1979 to 2000 average minimum.

Despite overall cooler summer temperatures, the 2008 minimum extent is only 390,000 sq. kilometres, or 9.4 per cent, more than the record-setting 2007 minimum.

The effect of global warming and climate change on the Arctic has been the focus of worldwide study and debate.

Earlier this year, the World Wildlife Fund delivered a report that suggested the Arctic climate is changing even more rapidly than scientists had predicted.

It said a reduction in Arctic sea ice cover has "massively accelerated" since 2005 while projections that take into account factors such as the increased absorption of the sun's heat by open water suggest the summer ice pack could be gone in five to 32 years.

The vast Greenland Ice Cap is also thought to be shrinking more quickly than anticipated.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

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