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This image provided by the National Snow & Ice Data Center shows Arctic Sea ice. Arctic sea ice this summer shrank to its second lowest level since scientists started to monitor it by satellite. (National Snow & Ice Data Center via AP)

The sea ice in the Arctic hit its second-lowest level in recorded history this summer

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It's a tremendous loss that we're looking at here.
Mark Serreze, National Snow and Ice Data Center

Arctic sea ice hit its second-lowest level in recorded history on Saturday, which scientist called an ominous sign of continued global warming.

The sea ice now covers 1.6 million square miles. That sounds like a lot, but from 1979 to 2000, it was 1 million square miles larger on average. 

This GIF from the National Sea and Ice Data Center breaks down the difference.

Center director Mark Serreze said the record for smallest sea ice size was set in 2007, and this year avoided that mark by only 3,800 square miles. 

Researchers said the continued shrinking of the sea ice could have disastrous effects soon. Reduced sea ice could mess with the jet stream, which could further increase dangerous "weather anomalies" worldwide, Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann said.

What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic.
PSU climate scientist Michael Mann

What happened this year?

This was an unusual year for sea ice, in that an outbreak in storms didn't keep the waters cool as they usually would. Plus, sea ice levels were abnormally low in the winter. 

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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