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Arctic ice at 2nd lowest level since 1979: US report
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 16, 2011

The frozen Arctic has shrunk to its second lowest level since satellites began measuring it in 1979, capping a decade of "rapidly decreasing summer sea ice," US scientists said Friday.

The Colorado-based National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the ice cap appeared to have reached its lowest level for the summer, at 4.33 million square kilometers (1.67 million square miles) on September 9.

That is the second lowest level since the center began tracking the ice mass by satellite more than 30 years ago, with the lowest level recorded in 2007.

The NSIDC cautioned that the measurement was based on preliminary results and that changing winds could push the ice flows closer together, resulting in a smaller figure when final numbers are released in early October.

"The last five years (2007 to 2011) have been the five lowest extents in the continuous satellite record, which extends back to 1979," the NSIDC said.

"While the record low year of 2007 was marked by a combination of weather conditions that favored ice loss... this year has shown more typical weather patterns but continued warmth over the Arctic," it said.

Using a different set of data, German researchers said last week that the area covered by Arctic Sea ice had reached its lowest point since the start of satellite observations in 1972, calling it a "new historic minimum."

Arctic ice cover plays a critical role in regulating Earth's climate by reflecting sunlight and keeping the polar region cool.

Retreating summer sea ice -- 50 percent smaller in area than four decades ago -- is described by scientists as both a measure and a driver of global warming, with negative impacts on a local and planetary scale.

Satellite tracking since 1972 shows that the extent of Arctic sea ice is dropping at about 11 percent per decade.

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Canada braces for Hurricane Maria
Ottawa (AFP) Sept 16, 2011 - Canada braced for Hurricane Maria early Friday, issuing a warning for southeastern Newfoundland and predicting the category one storm would make landfall by the afternoon.

Environment Canada, the country's official weather service, predicted strong winds and heavy rainfall across the Atlantic coast, warning of "far-reaching impacts of the combined weather systems well away from the track."

The US National Hurricane Center said Maria was packing winds of 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour, with little change in strength expected until it hits land Friday afternoon.

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EU court rejects Inuit challenge of seal trade ban
Luxembourg (AFP) Sept 15, 2011
Europe's top court has rejected a bid by Inuit seal hunters and fur traders to strike down an EU ban on products derived from the Arctic animals. The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice refused to hear the challenge brought by 17 organisations, including Canada's largest Inuit group, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), according to a 12-page decision dated September 6. "Inuit are disap ... read more

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