Arctic ice shrinks to near-record low
A blistering summer melted Arctic sea ice to near-record lows, and scientists say two more weeks of high temperatures could bring ice coverage in the polar region to the lowest since satellite measurements were first taken in 1979.
That's the grim assessment released Thursday by the National Climatic Data Center, which also calculated that last month's global temperatures amounted to the eighth-warmest August on record. Federal forecasters predicted a return to La Nina conditions, bringing slightly drier and warmer weather to much of the country.
The sea ice melt in August was the second most extensive, and with a few more weeks left of melting it's possible that the record lows of 2007 could be matched, according to Jake Crouch, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Heat and aridity records were bested across the United States this summer where every state except North Dakota and Vermont reported at least one day of 100-degree readings. Texas was the hardest hit: 88 of 92 days of summer exceeded 100 degrees in Wichita Falls.
Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said an average of 10 inches of rain has fallen across the state in the last 11 months. If Texas does not receive 3-1/2 inches of rain in the next two weeks, 2011 will go in the record books as the state's driest ever.
-- Julie Cart
Photo: From 3,000 to 4,000 walruses died in stampedes on the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea in 2007, after they were stranded on land due to a lack of sea ice. Credit: Anatoly A. Kochnev / Pacific Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography