This graph shows the decline in Arctic sea ice extent this year (blue line) as compared with the past record year, 2007 (green dotted line) and the 30-year average. Notice that there is a regular cycle of thaw and freeze that follows the seasons, yet this year the melt was much more pronounced. (Image: NSIDC)
In the Arctic Ocean, autumn doesn’t mean colorful leaves or harvesting pumpkins and apples. It means that the ice bobbing atop the sea around the North Pole is at its minimum after melting through the summer.
This autumn, new records are being set for the minimum amount of sea ice in the Arctic. On August 26, the extent of ice diminished to less than it has ever been, at least since we’ve been watching it with satellites over 30 years.
And a new record has been set every day since then as the amount of sea ice continues to fall. On Sept 5, the amount of sea ice fell below 4 million square kilometers. It’s expected to keep declining until cooler temperatures of fall set in.
- Spy on Arctic sea ice at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
- To answer your burning questions about ice and climate, check out Icelights from NSIDC.
- To compare maps of sea ice from years past, visit Compare Arctic Sea Ice Extent
A NASA Global Climate Change News Story puts this record setting in context:
"By itself it's just a number, and occasionally records are going to get set," NSIDC research scientist Walt Meier said about the new record. "But in the context of what's happened in the last several years and throughout the satellite record, it's an indication that the Arctic sea ice cover is fundamentally changing."