Sea ice in the Arctic shrank to a record low on August 27—and kept shrinking for 20 days. The sea has finally begun to refreeze after bottoming out on September 16 at 1.32 million square miles, almost 300,000 square miles less than the record set at the end of the melting season in 2007, reports the Washington Post. The ice retreated much faster than experts had predicted, shrinking at a record 35,400 square miles per day in August.
"We are now in uncharted territory," says the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur." The ice is also losing thickness, making it even more vulnerable to melting. Experts believe the record Arctic melt could change weather patterns enough to cause a harsh winter in the US this year.