Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean covered only 3.49 million square kilometers as of Sept. 16, the smallest area on record, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said Sept. 20.
The reading dropped from 4.21 million square km as of Aug. 24, which was already below the previous all-time minimum of 4.25 million square km recorded in September 2007, according to observations by JAXA's global water circulation and climate change monitoring satellite "Shizuku."
But with winter approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, temperatures have begun to drop, so the ice is not expected to shrink farther this year, JAXA officials said.
Due to rising air temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere since the 1980s, the sea ice has grown thinner, making it more susceptible to changes in air and seawater temperatures, JAXA officials said.
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