Sydney, September 21 : Satellite images have shown that the melting of the Arctic ice has reached disturbing levels, with disappearance of the ice this year peaking at a level close to last year's record melt, making it the second-worst since satellite records began.
According to a report in Sydney Morning Herald, figures from the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, supported by satellite imagery from the US space agency, NASA, shows the northern summer melt peaked during this week when the Arctic sea ice dropped to 4.52 million square kilometres, the second-lowest spread on record.
The figures put the size of the Arctic sea ice at the end of the northern summer about one third lower than the average recorded over the last three decades.
"This year further reinforces the strong negative trend in summertime ice extent observed over the past 30 years," analysts at the ice data centre said in their latest report.
Chances that the Arctic would be able to recover from this record melt are now slim. s the sea ice fails to return, there are concerns the melt will become one of the "tipping points", pushing the planet towards faster climate change.
Scientists fear the vast Arctic sea ice, which covers the North Pole, could disappear in summer within a few decades.
"We might see an ice-free Arctic Ocean by the year 2030, within some of our life times," the centre's Mark Serreze told the Herald. "There are some scientists out there who think that even might be optimistic," he added.
According to Dr Don Perovich, of the US Army's Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, the loss of the Arctic sea ice in summer would be unprecedented in human history.
"As near as we can tell, looking at the historical record, there's been ice in the Arctic in the summer for at least 16 million years," he said.
The record melt is believed to be caused by a combination of naturally varying weather patterns combined with rising temperatures from global warming, caused in part by the burning of fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal.
With the end of the Arctic summer and the peaking of the melt, scientific attention will switch to the planet's other pole, the Antarctic, where Australian researchers plan a series of expeditions heavily focused on climate change.
Eight Australian scientists would explore the continent's interior as part of the global search to find the oldest ice core in the world - one more than a million years old.
The cores may help reveal a record of the world during abrupt climate change of ice ages and periods of warming.