1. ITV Report

Arctic sea ice melts to lowest level since records began and is expected to recede further

The world's Arctic ice cap has shrunk to a new low, surpassing a record set only five years ago, and is expected to keep retreating for a few more weeks, according to US data.

This visualization shows the extent of Arctic sea ice on Aug. 26, 2012 Credit: NASA

The Arctic sea ice fell to 1.58 million square miles (4.10 million square kilometres) down 27,000 square miles from 2007, which was the previous low the lowest since satellites began measuring the ice in 1979, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre.

Arctic sea ice extent as of August 26, 2012, along with daily ice extent data for 2007, the previous low and 1980 previous high Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

The ice is usually expected to dwindle until mid to late-September when the summer melting usually ends, according to the centre, leading experts to fear that the ice levels will get even lower in 2012.

Shrinking of the Arctic ices alarms scientists and environmentalists because the Arctic acts as the world's air conditioner, helping to moderate the globe's climate.

An image of multi-year sea ice (brighter white) over the average sea ice (light blue) during 3 winter months ending in January 1980 Credit: NASA

It's a little surprising to see the 2012 Arctic sea ice extent in August dip below the record low 2007 sea ice extent in September.

It's likely we are going to surpass the record decline by a fair amount this year by the time all is said and done.

– Walt Meier, US National Snow and Ice Data Centre scientist
Multi-year sea ice (brighter white) shown over the average sea ice (light blue) during the three winter months ending in January 2008 Credit: NASA

As parts of the Arctic melted, this year has been marked by record heat in much of the Northern Hemisphere, especially across the continental United States which has been ravaged by drought.

Most scientists blame global warming for the retreat of the Arctic ice and there is concern that the growing amounts of open water means the Arctic will not be as effective moderating the planet's climate.

Multi-year sea ice (brighter white) over the average sea ice (light blue) during the three winter months ending in January 2012 Credit: NASA

These preliminary figures provide irrefutable evidence that greenhouse gas emissions leading to global warming are damaging one of the planet's critical environments, one that helps maintain the stability of the global climate for every citizen of the world

– Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace executive director