UN Report: 2012 Arctic Ice Melt Larger Than Size of United States

The United Nations warned Wednesday that climate change is "taking place before our eyes."

This undated handout photo provided by NOAA shows Arctic ice. Federal officials say the Arctic region has changed dramatically in the past five years for the worse. It's melting at a near record pace, and it's darkening and absorbing too much of the sun's heat.
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Arctic sea ice reached its lowest extent on record and the first ten months of 2012 were among the hottest on record again, according to the United Nations' global climate office, which said "climate change is taking place before our eyes."

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January through October 2012 was the ninth warmest on record since 1850, despite cooler temperatures during the year's first few months due to the cooling influence of La Niña, the World Meteorological Organization said.

"After the end of the La Niña in April 2012, the global land and ocean temperatures rose increasingly above the long-term average with each consecutive month. The six-month average of May–October 2012 was among the four warmest such periods on record," the group announced.

Between March and September, 4.57 million square miles of Arctic sea ice—an area larger than the size of the continental United States—melted. On September 16, the Arctic ice sheet hit its lowest extent ever, which was nearly 20 percent smaller than the previous record low on Sept. 18, 2007. The minimum ice cover of 1.3 million square miles was about half of the average cover between 1979 and 2000.

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Michel Jarraud, the WMO's secretary general, said he found the group's findings scary.

"The alarming rate of [the Arctic's] melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth's oceans," he said. "Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records."

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Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at jkoebler@usnews.com.