Global warming is causing a rapid melting of the Arctic, which could be ice-free by 2030
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As a result, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe. Specifically, scientists are observing retreating sea ice, melting glaciers, and shrinking snow and permafrost areas.6 The summer ice cap is estimated to be only half the size it was fifty years ago.7 Sea-ice extent in the Arctic has decreased steadily since the 1950s and in September 2007 reached a record low that was 39 percent below the 1979–2000 mean. September 2008 experienced the second-lowest Arctic ice extent on record, at 34 percent below the 1970–2000 mean. In September 2009, when the Arctic reached its minimum ice extent for the year, it was recorded at the third-lowest extent since 1979 satellite measurements began, further demonstrating the declining trend in summer sea ice over the past thirty years (see the figure).8
Although estimates for when the Arctic will experience ice-free conditions in the summer range from 2013 to 2060, the consensus of most models and researchers is that the Arctic will experience ice-free conditions for a portion of the summer by 2030.9 It is important to point out that no research or model simulations indicate that winter sea-ice cover of the Arctic Ocean will disappear during this century. This reinforces the point that the Arctic will still be a very challenging environment in which to operate.