The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., has announced that Arctic sea ice likely reached its annual minimum extent on or around Sept. 15. The measurement of 1.44 million square miles is the second-lowest Arctic sea ice minimum since the beginning of the satellite-based record in 1979.

A warming trend in recent decades has caused the amount of sea ice in summer and early fall to decrease, reinforcing the melting process by keeping winter ice thinner. Warmer ocean currents are causing ice to melt from underneath as well.

The effect to our local weather is measurable, but minimal. Wintertime Arctic air outbreaks are still brutally cold. The reduction of sea ice does not cause the sea level to rise. However, the increased melting of the nearby Greenland Ice Sheet is expected to contribute several inches to the average level of the sea this century. Although this does not sound like much, it will greatly impact coastal flooding during storms and high tides.

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