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Sea ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean hit its second-lowest level on record this year, officials announced Thursday. 

The sea ice extent in the Arctic on Sept. 10 was 1.60 million square miles, the lowest level of the year before fall and winter freezing begins in the region. 

{mosads}The total was the second-lowest figure on record, behind the 1.31 million square miles observed in 2012. It ties the mark set in 2007, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said Thursday. 

Arctic ice levels tend to hit their minimum level in mid-September, after the summer months and before cold temperatures move in for the winter.

Researchers said the low ice levels were “surprising” given weather trends in the region this year. Summer in the Arctic had relatively cool temperatures and cloudy, wet conditions, which tend to limit sea ice loss during the warmest months of the year. 

But several factors were working against Arctic ice cover. For one, the Arctic had a record low maximum extent in March, meaning there was less ice than normal to melt off during the summer. Computer modeling showed a thin ice pack at the end of last winter, the NSIDC said, and ocean water temperatures were high toward the end of this summer, as well. 

The ten lowest Arctic ice extents have all come since 2005, the NSIDC said.

Scientists expect sea levels to rise as ice cover in the Arctic and Antarctic regions diminish due to climate change. NASA warned last year that sea levels are an average of 3 inches higher worldwide now than in 1992 and could rise up to 3 feet in the future.

Tags Arctic Ocean Climate change
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