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Arctic ice hits lowest record for June

In June the average sea ice extent in the Arctic was the lowest on record for that month, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Measured by satellites, the seasonal movements of Arctic ice have been tracked since 1979 with a dramatic decline observed over the last 30 years. This decline is linked by experts to climate change.

In June the ice extent averaged 10.87 million square kilometers, down 1.29 square kilometers from the 1979-2000 average. High temperatures in the Arctic are at least in part to blame for the ice loss, which was also the fastest seen in any June.

Researchers with NSIDC say that ice loss may not continue at the rapid rate seen in June, because the melt will soon encounter thicker ice sheets in the central Arctic Ocean. The Arctic sea ice reaches its lowest point in September. The record for the lowest Arctic sea ice extent was measured in September of 2007 at 4.14 million square kilometers. Ice cover recovered slightly in 2008 and 2009 from the 2007 nadir but did not return to ice extents measured prior to 2007. In fact, 2008 and 2009 were second and third in terms of ice loss respectively.

Arctic sea ice is vital for the global climate. Reflecting sunlight, the sea ice keeps the Arctic cool and impacts global weather systems.

The last decade, 2000-2009, was the warmest on record with measurements taken since 1880. In addition, researchers say this year is tracking to be among the warmest years yet.

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