Earth Indicator: 3.41 million (A new record low for sea ice)

September 19th, 2012 by Michon Scott
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On September 16, 2012, the extent of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean dropped to 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles). The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) issued a preliminary announcement on September 19 noting that it was likely the minimum extent for the year and the lowest extent observed in the 33-year satellite record.

This year’s Arctic sea ice minimum was 760,000 square kilometers (290,000 square miles) below the previous record set on September 18, 2007. (For a sense of scale, that’s an ice-area loss larger than the state of Texas.)

The previous record minimum, set in 2007, was 4.17 million square kilometers, or 1.61 million square miles. The September 2012 minimum was 18 percent below the 2007 minimum, and 49 percent below the 1979–2000 average minimum.

Graph courtesy National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Arctic sea ice typically reaches is minimum extent in mid-September, then begins increasing through the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter. The maximum extent usually occurs in March. Since the last maximum on March 20, 2012, the Arctic has lost a total of 11.83 million square kilometers (4.57 million square miles) of sea ice.

NSIDC uses a five-day running average for sea ice extent, and calculations of sea ice extent have been refined from those of previous years. For more information on Arctic sea ice in 2012, visit NSIDC’s Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis blog and the NASA news release on the observation. To learn more about sea ice basics, see the sea ice fact sheet.

5 Responses to “Earth Indicator: 3.41 million (A new record low for sea ice)”

  1. Rick says:

    Pretty soon you’ll have to redo the chart to show the 0 (zero) on the vertical axis.

  2. Charlie Valdez says:

    Lord PLEASE help us

  3. mack bome says:

    how will this low ice or ice melting affect botswana, we are already facing drought, we had crop failure for past two years and cattle are dying, how one plan for this drought, dams are drying, boreholes are also drying, it remind me of 60ties, 70ties and 80ties drought

  4. Michon Scott says:

    Hi Mack,

    I passed your inquiry along to some of my colleagues. Here are their answers:

    From Walt Meier at NSIDC:
    There are potential links between the Arctic and other regions, but these are mostly limited to the mid-latitudes and perhaps the northern subtropics. Any links beyond that would be tenuous.

    From Ted Scambos at NSIDC:
    In general, there’s not much climate communication between the hemispheres except in terms of global trends. Arctic sea ice decline is unlikely to have much of a direct impact on Botswana. The ENSO pattern and related patterns in the Indian Ocean are probably more important to this trend in South Africa. I’m sorry we can’t help more.

  5. phill says:

    ever heard of digging a well ??? storing water???

    so lazy

    It’s summertime ofcourse the ice will melt in summer, but it ALWAYS goes back to normal in winter and infact, as the graph shows sea ice in winter is actually growing not melting.

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