Mumbai: Arctic Ocean sea ice has melted to its second-lowest level ever, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre. This year's record indicated that the Arctic sea ice stretched over 2.03 million square miles, which is less than the 2005 mark of 2.05 million square miles, the second lowest ice cover, on record. The sea ice melt was primarily observed in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast.
Environmentalists say that ice cover has declined at an alrming rate of 10 per cent in the last decade.
The centre also noted that, with several weeks still left in the melt season, this year's Arctic sea ice melt would surpass the September 2007 minimum ice level of of 1.59 million square miles, which was the lowest recorded ice cover since satellite imaging began 30 years ago.
Environmental groups have warned that the impact was due to global warming, as the alarming decrease in ice level occured eventhough the summer was relatively cool. If the downward trend continues, the Arctic Ocean will probably become an ice free zone by 2030, which is catastrophic to life on the planet.
The Chukchi Sea, where the ice retreat was particularly observed, is home to the population of the threatened species of Alaska polar bears. Recently, during an arial survey of the Chukchi Sea, scientists spotted several polar bears swimming in the open ocean , with one at least 60 miles from shore, raising fears that the sea ice on which they live and hunt continues to melt.
The bears rely on sea ice as platforms for hunting seals, their main prey. As more Arctic ice melts, bears are forced to swim longer distances to find food. Though polar bears are powerful swimmers and have been recorded to swim of 100 miles, swimming so far from land, could leave them exhausted and susceptible to drowning in the gigantic Arctic seas.
Experts said that, due to summer ice melt more square miles of dark ocean will absorb more heat from the sun, resulting increased water temperature. More warmth will accelerate melting of the Arctic ice, allowing frozen organic matter to melt and release greenhouse gases in the atmosphere