Top 10 global weather events of 2010

9. Shrinking Arctic sea ice

Subhankar Banerjee / AP / File
A polar bear crosses the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska in this 2003 file photo. Polar bears live on the floating sheet of Arctic sea ice, which in September 2010 had shrunk to its third-smallest area on record.

Arctic sea ice, the floating ice sheet that covers most of the Arctic ocean, shrunk to its third-smallest extent ever, measuring only 4.9 million sq. km (1.9 sq. miles). The last four years (2007-2010) are the four smallest on record.

For the first time in modern history, the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route were simultaneously ice-free in September.

Arctic ice shrinks every summer and grows every winter, but this summer, it shrunk at the fastest rate ever measured – more than 50 percent faster than average, and breaking the 1999 record.

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