The area of sea ice covered in the Arctic is as small as it has been in seven years. Only around 3.9 million square kilometers of the Arctic Ocean are covered with sea ice at the end of the melting period, said the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven. For example, the annual minimum dropped below four million square kilometers for the second time since satellite measurements began in 1979.
The scientists will not draw the final results for 2019 until October. But they do not expect a new negative record. In 2012, a sea ice extent of just 3.4 million square kilometers had been observed.
"Record or not, this year confirms the continued long-term climate-induced decline in Arctic ice, making it more and more likely that there will be ice-free summers in the Arctic in a few decades," said Christian Haas, geophysicist and head of the marine section on the Arctic AWI. "This means drastic changes for the Arctic, with consequences for the climate and ecosystem and us humans, including in Europe."
Under the direction of the AWI, the icebreaker Polarstern will be leaving the Norwegian town of Tromsø on 20 September. For a year he is to drift with the pack ice through the Central Arctic. The scientists want to learn more about climate change.