Arctic sea ice extent at eighth lowest on record

20th September 2017

End-of-summer Arctic sea ice is likely to have reached its minimum extent for the year, and is the eighth lowest amount observed since satellite records began in 1979.

That is according to the latest findings from the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Centre, with its preliminary results showing 4.64 million square kilometres of ice on September 13.

Minimum Arctic sea ice has declined by an area around a quarter the size of Europe in the last 30 years, with the lowest recorded in 2012, and the top ten smallest amounts all falling in the last decade.

WWF head of polar programmes, Rod Downie, said: “From space, the loss of Arctic sea ice is the clearest and most visible sign of climate change, and human beings are responsible for most of it.

“We are engineering our planet and its climate. That’s not good for the people of the Arctic who depend upon sea ice for their traditional way of life, and for people across the world who depend on a stable climate.”

The ten lowest minimum Arctic sea ice extents (millions of square kilometres) since 1979 are shown below:

1) 2012 – 3.39 2) 2016 – 4.14 3) 2007 – 4.15 4) 2011 – 4.34 5) 2015 – 4.43 6) 2008 – 4.59 7) 2010 – 4.62 8) 2017 – 4.64 9) 2014 – 5.03 10) 2013 – 5.05

The overall rate of ice loss this summer was slowed by a persistent pattern of low sea level pressure focused over the central Arctic Ocean, according to the scientists at the data centre.

However, air temperatures in much of the Arctic have already exceeded the equivalent of the Paris climate targets, with warming in the region around twice the global average.

In addition, the ten warmest years on record have all come since 2005, with 2016 by far the hottest, leading the WWF to predict that the Arctic could be virtually free of summer ice in our lifetimes.

“The Arctic is in a changed state, but by tackling climate change head on and reducing our carbon emissions, we can help to stabilise it for future generations,” Downie concluded.


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