Arctic sea ice has melted to the second-lowest level on record, researchers say, and if weather patterns continue, ice levels could match or drop below the previous 2007 record within a matter of weeks.
The near-record low, Mark Serreze of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado said, shows that a long-term decline in Arctic sea ice is a continuing trend and appears to be accelerating.
Typically, arctic sea ice melts each summer by about 50%, and then refreezes during the fall and winter months. However, sea ice levels reaching unusual lows sets the stage for an even greater loss in the following year because there will be less slow-melting thick ice. “Come next spring, we're just going to have a lot of thin ice that formed over the autumn and winter. That's the stuff that melts out easily the next summer," Serreze said in an interview with NPR. "So there's a feedback at work here, and that feedback is getting stronger with time."
The Arctic could be ice free by as early as 2030 if existing trends continue, Serreze predicted.