By Barbara Kessler

Satellite pictures of the Arctic suggest that this year’s summer melt likely will be worse than last year’s, providing a dramatic demonstration of how global warming can snowball — no pun intended.

As the ice melts back farther and farther each summer, it loses its ability to reflect heat from the earth, becoming a contributor to, as well as a victim of, global warming. In addition, as the permafrost of the Arctic regions warms, it releases stored carbon, adding to greenhouse gases, and furthering the escalation of warming temperatures, scientists say. All this bad news, unfortunately doesn’t have any quick fixes, but will continue escalating until and unless global warming is stalled or reduced.

According to ongoing monitoring by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), August satellite images show that shrinking polar ice has receded to the second lowest level since satellite recording began, and September will tell if it surpasses the lowest level ever reached, in 2007.

“We will know in the next several weeks, when the melt season comes to a close. The bottom line, however, is that the strong negative trend in summertime ice extent characterizing the past decade continues,” according to the report this past week by the NSIDC.

The main areas of the melt are in the Chukchi Sea off the Alaskan coast and the East Siberian Seas off the coast of eastern Russia.

For more info about sea ice see the FAQ page of the NSIDC, which is based at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

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