From Green Right Now Reports

Sea ice in the Arctic dropped to its lowest level this September since scientists began tracking the size of the Arctic with satellites, breaking the previous record for the greatest loss of ice set in 2007.

The Arctic as of Sept. 16, 2012, a record low. The red line shows its 20th Century median size.

The sea ice dropped to 1.32 million square miles on Sept. 16, which appears to be the lowest extent it will reach this year, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo..

This year’s minimum reduced the Arctic to a size about half of the average summer minimums seen in the satellite records from 1979 to 2000.

“We are now in uncharted territory,” said NSIDC Director Mark Serreze, in a statement. “While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur.”

The Arctic ice that remained in mid-September covered a region about the size of Texas, compared to an Arctic ice cap that used to be about double the size of the state of Alaska at that time, the NSIDC reported.

The loss of sea ice is part of a warming trend in the Arctic that has dramatically changed its landscape in the 21st Century, with the sea ice shrinking to its smallest summer minimums in each of the last six years.

Sea ice melting in the Arctic has been accelerating because of warmer air temperatures at the North Pole, and because the shrinking extent of ice lowers the region’s ability to reflect the sun’s rays, exposing more dark water, which absorbs heat.

During the winter, the sea ice grows back, from late September to March, but scientists report that the winter ice is growing thinner, setting the stage for more extensive melting during the summer months.

Some experts say the Arctic ice cap could be gone within the decade, if not sooner, depriving Earth of one mechanism, ice reflectivity, that helps reduce global warming.