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26/09/2008

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2008, record year in Arctic

2008, record year in Arctic

For the second year in a row, the pack ice has undergone a melt never observed since 1979 when the network of satellite observations enabled to measure its expanse for the first time. This minimum was reached on the 5th of September and again on the 8th of September. Since then, the pack ice is slightly increasing thanks to the fall in temperature that is recorded each autumn over the Arctic.
The American NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Center) indicates a minimum ice extension of 4,52 million km2 in 2008 (4,13 million km2 in 2007) whereas the Bremen Institute of Environmental Physics indicates 4,1 million km2 in 2008 ( 3,9 million km2 in 2007). This difference can be attributed mainly to the different types of algorithms used. The minimum ice extension includes also open water surfaces located within the area where ice concentration is greater than 30% for Bremen and 15% for NSIDC. On the other hand, the minimum ice surface excludes these open water zones. Bremen calculated that they were of 3,7 million km2 in 2007 and 3,8 million km2 in 2008.
After 2007 that was a disastrous year for summer ice and of which the value had not been predicted by any mathematical models conceived to anticipate sea ice fluctuations, the scientists had hoped that one would see a regeneration, even if partial of summer pack ice. Unfortunately, this is not the case and this state seems to confirm the decline followed by the disappearance of the summer pack ice sooner or later.
Furthermore the pack ice’s thickness in 2008 diminished compared to 2007. The pluriannual ice surface represents less than 10% of its total surface which means that the pack ice has reached in September 2008 its lower volume ever recorded.
Another sad record, for the first time in modern history, the North West Passage (along the Canadian coasts) and the Northern Sea Route (along the Siberian coasts) are both open to navigation.

Christian de Marliave

Tara 2006-2007

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