Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is expected to shrink to a record level this summer, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Aug. 20.
Analysis of imagery taken by JAXA's global water circulation and climate change monitoring satellite "Shizuku" (GCOM-W1) revealed that the ice cover is retreating at roughly the same pace as in 2007, when it shrank to its smallest on record since observation started in 1978.
Unlike normal years, the decrease has not slowed in August, JAXA said.
According to JAXA, the ice covered 4.7 million square kilometers as of Aug. 18. The figure is likely to plunge below the all-time minimum of 4.3 million square km recorded on Sept. 24, 2007.
Arctic sea ice consists of thick "perennial ice," which survives summers, and thin "seasonal ice," formed only during the previous winter.
The Arctic Ocean ice cover was the second smallest on record last summer. Subsequent winter chills brought it back to the size of the 1990s, but there was more seasonal ice than before in marine areas above 80 degrees north, where perennial ice is abundant, JAXA officials said.
"This year's sea ice is noticeably fragile," said Masahiro Hori, a scientist at JAXA's Earth Observation Research Center. "Thin seasonal ice probably covered broad areas."
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