Arctic Sea Ice Extent Now Third Lowest on Record -- and Still Dropping

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reports today in End of summer approaches for Arctic sea ice (7 Sept 2010) that with 1-2 weeks left in the melt season (i.e. until the sea ice minimum), Arctic Sea Ice extent now is the third lowest on record.  Only 2007 and 2008 saw lower sea ice extents for the date.

  Arctic Sea Ice Extent as of September 6, 2010.  Source: NSIDC

Above: Arctic sea ice extent as of September 6, 2010, along with daily ice extents for years with the four lowest minimum extents. Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

As the figure below indicates, average August sea ice extent was the second lowest on record in 2010 and is declining at a rate of 8.9% per decade

Average Monthly Arctic Sea Ice Extent, August 1979 to 2010. Source: NSIDC.

Above: Monthly August ice extent for 1979 to 2010.  The extent has declined at a rate of 8.9% per decade. Source: NSIDC

With anomalously warm air temperatures, persistent southerly winds, and thin disintegrating ice (so called rotten ice), the Chukchi and Beaufort seas saw especially rapid ice loss relative to the long term (1979-2000 average) (see figure below).  

August Daily Arctic Sea Ice Lose, by Region, August 2010.  Source: NSIDC.

Above: Ice loss in the Arctic by region.  Ice extent declined faster than normal in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. The map in the bottom left corresponds to the regions plotted across the top of the graph. Colors in the bar graph correspond to August ice loss in different years.  Source:  NSIDC.

By 6 September, sea ice in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas had receded much further from shore -- and over deeper waters -- than was typical at the end of the 20th century (i.e. from 1979-2000).  The ice loss in the Chukchi sea has forced thousands of walruses to haul-out on land along the Alaska coast.  See our post, USGS Confirms Thousands of Walruses Hauling-Out on Alaska's Northwest Coast as Sea Ice Rapidly Retreats (7 Sep 2010).

Sea Ice Extent, 6 Sep 2010.

Above: Sea ice extent on 6 September 2010.  Note the large area of ice loss in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas on the left side of the image (north of Alaska). Source: NSIDC.

Online Resources:

End of summer approaches for Arctic sea ice.  National Snow and Ice Data Center, 7 Sept 2010.

For more on walruses, climate change and Arctic sea ice, see our special post on Arctic Sea Ice Decline and its Impacts: Online Resources.  See also the following from our climate change blog:

See also:


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