The Arctic sea ice has retreated this summer to a greater extent than ever previously recorded
The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the minimum extent of 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles) was reached on 16 September.
The figure shatters all previous satellite surveys, including the previous record low of 5.32 million sq km measured in 2005.
Meanwhile, there are fears that Antarctic sea ice may also be thinning
An Australian-led expedition is using lasers on helicopters in Antarctica and satellites for the first time to determine whether sea ice in the Southern Ocean is changing in response to climate change.
There are concerns that Antarctic sea ice might be getting thinner, the Australian Antarctic Division said in a statement on Thursday.
Sea ice plays an essential role in regulating global climate as well as supporting the Southern Ocean ecosystem.
Sea ice could be expected to respond to global warming and was therefore like a canary in a coal mine, said Australian glaciologist Tas van Ommen.
The Larsen B Antarctic ice shelf collapsed in 2002, and as much as 36 cubic miles of ice is being lost from the southern continent. (There are areas of Antarctica where ice is increasing, an efect which ironically can also be explained by global warming)
Britain was devasted by flooding this summer, but that is nothing to the sufferings being endured across Africa as areas which were recently drought-stricken have been inundated.
The British Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal for flood-affected areas across the continent, saying it will work alongside the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to “provide urgently needed relief, including shelter and water purification tablets, to those affected by the crisis”.
The floods are said to be the worst in many countries for decades, with 250 killed and more than 600,000 displaced.
One area particularly badly affected is northern Ghana, where the White Volta River burst its banks following days of torrential rain and large areas of farmland were flooded.
Of course, it is impossible to say that any particular weather-event is the result of climate change. But doesn’t it feel to you as though the weather has got very peculiar recently? Individual perceptions may not count as scientific evidence, but everyone I speak to seems uneasy about what we are seeing.
And, as I’ve said before, if the climate is changing as a result of human activities it will be the poorest of the world who bear the brunt of the consequences.
Can we afford to have that on our consciences?