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Shrinking ice cap

London, Sept. 29: The Arctic ice cap is on track to disappear within a century, according to a study published yesterday.

The satellite survey by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), and the space agency Nasa reveals that for the fourth consecutive year there has been “a stunning reduction” in Arctic sea ice at the end of the northern summer.

The survey recorded the lowest sea-ice extent yet seen ' 2.06 million square miles on September 19 ' 20 per cent below the mean average September sea-ice extent from 1978 to 2001. That is the equivalent of 500,000 square miles ' an area about twice the size of Texas.

This year “will almost certainly surpass 2002 as the lowest amount of ice cover in more than a century”, said Julienne Stroeve, of the Centre. If current rates of decline in sea ice continue, the summertime Arctic could be ice-free well before the end of this century. A recent assessment of trends throughout the past century indicates that the current decline also exceeds past low ice periods in the 1930s and 1940s.

From 1979 until 2001, the rate of September decline was slightly more than 6.5 per cent a decade. In 2002, the trend steepened to 7.3 per cent.

Cooler winter temperatures allow the sea ice to “rebound” after summer melting. But with the exception of May 2005, every month since December 2004 has set a new record low ice extent for that month.

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