DOHA, Qatar — An area of Arctic sea ice bigger than the United States melted this year, according to the U.N. weather agency, which said the dramatic decline illustrates that climate change is happening "before our eyes."
In a report released at U.N. climate talks, the World Meteorological Organization said the Arctic ice melt was one of a myriad of extreme and record-breaking weather events to hit the planet in 2012. Droughts devastated nearly two-thirds of the United States as well as western Russia and southern Europe. Floods swamped west Africa and heat waves left much of the Northern Hemisphere sweltering.
But it was the ice melt that seemed to dominate the annual climate report: from March to September, a staggering 4.57 million square miles.
The dire climate news — following a report Tuesday that found melting permafrost could significantly amplify global warming — comes as delegates from nearly 200 countries struggled to lay the groundwork for a deal that would cut emissions in an attempt to ensure that temperatures don't rise more than 3.6 degrees over what they were in preindustrial times. Temperatures have already risen about 1.4 degrees.