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Native people face shrinking Arctic

23 Sep 2008

The Irish Times

THE SHRINKING of Arctic sea ice to its second-smallest size on record signals greater changes in the Earth's climate as it opens previously frozen shipping routes.

The polar ice, which melts from March to September each year and expands again as winter approaches, was only smaller in 2007, according to satellite data collected since 1979 and released today by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The trend of reduced ice dates to even before 1979, according to measurements from aircraft and ships. "We certainly haven't seen conditions like this for hundreds of years," said Walt Meier, a scientist at the Boulder, Colorado-based centre who blames the retreat largely on emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

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