WASHINGTON - Today's announcement by the National Snow and Ice Data Center that there was less arctic sea ice this summer than ever before measured prompted World Wildlife Fund to underscore the urgency of taking all available steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. News of the new record low follows NASA's recent announcement of melting in the Arctic at rates faster than previously thought.
"This trend of disappearing arctic sea ice is one example of the environmental damage that can be linked to carbon dioxide emissions," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the WWF Climate Change Program. "When we have the means to reduce CO2 emissions and prevent further damage, inaction is irresponsible. National leaders must act now to implement energy efficiency measures and increase the use of renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, before it's too late."
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, the area of arctic sea ice in September this year was four percent less than any previous September recorded, and 17 percent below the average for the 24-year period during which data has been collected. Rising temperatures contributed to the record low.
"The 2002 ice anomaly is the most recent manifestation of a general downward trend in ice cover," said Mark Serreze, research scientist at the University of Colorado. "The trend is linked to changes in a large-scale atmospheric phenomenon known as the Arctic Oscillation. Over the past several decades, the Arctic Oscillation has brought warmer and windier conditions which act together to promote ice loss. There is increasing evidence that the change in the Arctic Oscillation is partly a result of human activities."
These new observations add to a recent announcement by NASA that perennial sea ice in the Arctic is melting three times faster than previously thought, at a rate of nine percent per decade. NASA also found that temperatures in the Arctic are increasing at the rate of 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. If these melting rates continue for a few more decades, NASA said, the perennial sea ice may disappear entirely this century.
NASA's findings mean that changes in the Arctic are occurring more rapidly than WWF previously stated in a report issued earlier this year on ongoing polar bear research. In that report, WWF described how as temperatures in the Arctic become warmer - and are remaining warmer for longer periods - than ever before, there's a lengthening of the ice-free season. These changes are disruptive to unique arctic ecosystems and species like the polar bear.