Calls for global action as Arctic sea ice hits record low

Glaciers are melting faster than previously recorded, scientists say. Credit: ITV News

The Arctic sea ice cover recorded this year is the lowest since satellite records began, scientists say, prompting renewed calls for action and stark warnings on the impact of the warming Arctic on global sea levels.

The annual 'maximum extent' of ice covering in the Arctic marks the beginning of the sea ice melt season and is used by scientists to calculate the level of cover.

Science Correspondent Alok Jha has been to the northernmost city in the Arctic, where scientists have been measuring glacial retreat and reporting worrying findings on the state of the climate that they are hoping global leaders will heed.

This year's findings, released in the past week, from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), rang alarm bells with scientists across the globe.

Professor Doug Benn, a Glaciologist from the St Andrew's University in Scotland who is currently working at the University of Svalbard, has been studying the Tunabreen glacier in Svalbard.

He told ITV News there are strong indications the scale of glacier retreat - which began centuries ago - has accelerated greatly recently.

Professor Benn explained one of the focuses his study was on the "calving" of ice - the process by which large icebergs fall from glaciers into the sea - as this process transfers ice a lot quicker from land to sea. This in turn impacts sea levels, causing them to rise.

Professor Adrian Luckman, from the University of Swansea and University Centre in Svalbald, explained part of the reason for the glacial melt was warmer temperatures in the ocean. He said the rate of retreat of the glaciers was increasing all over the Arctic as well as the Antarctica.

Dr Kim Holmen, Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, described how the melting of the glaciers was having a negative effect on the entire climate system.

Speaking from Longyearben he said the melted glaciers were changing the life of the animals, plants and birds that rely on the area to survive.

He warned of the global impact that the changes being observed in the Arctic, and said it was clearly past time for humans to act to mitigate the impact of their actions.

The melting of glaciers is the single biggest contributor to rising sea levels, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) says.

Sea levels have been rising steadily since the 1970s due to a combination of ocean thermal expansion - a term used to describe the increase in volume and decrease in density of the ocean as the result of the increased temperature of the water - and the increased water caused from the melting of glaciers and ice sheets.

Glacier retreat is being measured by scientists. Credit: ITV News

A video made by the University Centre in Svalbard shows the rate of shrinkage recorded from May to November in 2014.

The impact of the current rises are being felt across the UK - and the Met Office is warning that by 2030 a rise of between 11- 16 cm is likely.In February last year, the Met Office warned: