Back in August, the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)) reported that over 900 cubic kilometers of summer sea ice had disappeared from the Arctic ocean over the past year. At the time, that was a loss 50% greater than figures predicted by most polar scientists. However, now the NSIDC is reporting that the Arctic sea ice has reached its minimum extent for the year, equal to 1.32 million square miles. This is the lowest seasonal minimum extent noted in the satellite record since 1979.

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According to the NSIDC, the fall in sea ice extent was in response to the setting sun and falling temperatures. However, now that autumn has officially begun, ice extent will now climb over the next few months, but there is still a chance that a shift in wind patterns could still push the ice extent lower.

So far, this year’s minimum was 760,000 square kilometers (293,000 square miles) below the previous record minimum extent in the satellite record, which occurred on September 18, 2007. To put that in layman’s turns, this is about the size of the state of Texas. The September 2012 minimum was in turn 3.29 million square kilometers (1.27 million square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average minimum which is approximately an area nearly twice the size of the state of Alaska. This year’s minimum is 18% below 2007 and 49% below the 1979 to 2000 average.

Speaking to BBC News, Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Center (NSIDC) in Colorado, US said: “We are now in uncharted territory. While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur.”

+ US National Snow and Ice Data Center

Via BBC News

Images: National Snow and Ice Data Center and NASA Goddard Photo and Video