Even though autumn begins on Sunday, this is the time of year when the Arctic ice cap reaches its minimum, warmed by the heat that builds up in the atmosphere over the summer. The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that it’s reached a record low, passing the mark set in 2005. Click HERE for their map. See their summary HERE. They write: "The long-term average minimum, based on averaging data from 1979 to 2000, is 6.74 million square kilometers (2.60 million square miles) and occurs on September 12. Compared to this average, five-day mean ice extent for September 16, 2007, was lower by 2.61 million square kilometers (one million square miles), an area approximately equal to the size of Alaska and Texas combined, or the size of ten United Kingdoms. "The minimum for 2007 shatters the previous five-day minimum set on September 20-21, 2005, by 1.19 million square kilometers (460,000 square miles), roughly the size of Texas and California combined, or nearly five United Kingdoms." As you’ve probably read elsewhere, the famed Northwest Passage, sought by explorers for centuries, is currently open to ships, according the the European Space Agency, which makes its own measurements. ================= Shuttle Update Florida Today reports this morning that repairs to the shuttle Discovery’s landing gear are ahead of schedule, and an Oct. 23 launch date is still on the table. More HERE.