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The Vanishing Arctic

BERLIN – Largely unnoticed, a silent drama has been unfolding over the past weeks in the Arctic. The long-term consequences will far outstrip those of the international debt crisis or the demise of the Libyan dictatorship, the news stories now commanding media attention. The drama – more accurately, a tragedy – playing out in the North is the rapid disappearance of the polar ice cap, the Arctic Ocean’s defining feature.

In September, the sea-ice cover on the Arctic Ocean melted all the way back to the record-low level recorded in September 2007. At 4.4 million square kilometers, it was the smallest ice cover since satellite observations began 40 years ago, with 40% less ice than in the 1970’s and 1980’s.