Average Arctic Sea Ice Extent Drops to Record Low for the Month in June

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported yesterday (6 July 2010) that "[i]n June, ice extent declined by 88,000 kilometers (34,000 square miles) per day, more than 50% greater than the average rate of 53,000 kilometers (20,000 square miles) per day. This rate of decline is the fastest measured for June."   The average sea ice extent was the lowest for any June in the satellite record, which extends back to 1979.  The NSIDC reports in Rapid ice loss continues through June that the "linear rate of monthly decline for June over the 1979 to 2010 period is now 3.5% per decade."  See figures below.

Average Monthly Arctic Sea Ice Extent, June 1979 to 2010.
Source (above): National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent, 2010 through June compared to earlier years and to 1979-2000 average.  Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

To put the situation in perspective:

  • The average Arctic Sea Ice extent was 1.29 million square kilometers (498,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average.  That departure from average is equivalent to the areas of California, Texas and Florida combined.
  •  The daily decline in sea ice extent (averaging 88,000 kilometers or 34,000 square miles per day) was a daily decline greater than the area of South Carolina.

The NSIDC says that "[w]eather conditions, atmospheric patterns, and cloud cover over the next month will play a major role in determining whether the 2010 sea ice decline tracks at a level similar to 2007," the year when Arctic sea ice dropped to its lowest ever annual minimum extent.  The center notes that an atmospheric pattern called the "summer Arctic dipole anomaly" has established itself over the region and favors winds that accelerate the decline in sea ice. The same pattern in 2007 was partly responsible for the record sea ice minimum observed in September of that year.  

NASA separately reported in Sunny Skies over the Arctic in Late June 2010:

"Clear skies in late June 2010 provided plenty of unfiltered sunlight to melt snow and ice in the Arctic. Arriving at roughly the same time as the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice, the conditions meant that unfiltered sunlight would reach the Arctic’s land and sea surfaces at a time of near round-the-clock daylight...Temperatures in May and June were high, leading to an early onset of melting in June over much of the Arctic."

Sunny Skies over the Arctic in Late June 2010

The Arctic on 28 June 2010, viewed from  the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite.  Source: NASA.

Online Resources:

Rapid ice loss continues through June.  Update (6 July 2010) from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Sunny Skies over the Arctic in Late June 2010.  Image of the Day (6 July 2010) from NASA's Earth Observatory.

High Above the Earth, Satellites Track Melting Ice .  Article (6 July 2010) by Michael D. Lemonick in Environment 360.

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WWF Climate Change Blog > Arctic .  More postings on the Arctic from WWF US.  To stay updated, monitor the blog's Arctic RSS Feed.   Recent posts include:


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