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Climate Change

Published on September 26th, 2012 | by Joshua S Hill


Arctic Sea Ice Extent Concludes Summer Shrinkage at Record Minimum

September 26th, 2012 by  

How many posts will you see decrying the minimum sea ice extent of the Arctic Sea this year? My best bet is approximately 36, give or take three on either side. For CleanTechnica’s part, this should be our last, as the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has released its preliminary report on 2012’s sea ice extent minimum.

According to NSIDC, “on September 16, Arctic sea ice appeared to have reached its minimum extent for the year of 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles).”

This puts 2012 as the lowest seasonal minimum extent in the satellite record, which began back in 1979, despite the year being less extreme than 2007, when climatic conditions actively favoured summer ice loss.


The minimum extent — a preliminary result, given the possibility of a shift in wind patterns leading to a period of late season melt pushing the ice extent even lower — was reached three days later than the 1979 to 2000 average minimum date of September 13.

This year’s minimum was 760,000 square kilometers (293,000 square miles) below the previous record minimum extent in the satellite record, which occurred on September 18, 2007, and 49 percent below the 1979 to 2000 average.

Overall, there was a loss of 11.83 million square kilometers (4.57 million square miles) of ice since the maximum extent occurred on March 20, 2012, which is the largest summer ice extent loss in the satellite record, more than one million square kilometers greater than in any previous year.

NSIDC suggests that “the primary reason for the large loss of ice this summer is that the ice cover has continued to thin and become more dominated by seasonal ice.” What they mean is that instead of ice that has survived several summers and grown thick and strong, the ice that is melting each year is only formed the winter previously.

For more on the Arctic death spiral, check out this Arctic death spiral post from March, this post on Arctic ice melt projections for the coming years, this post on 2011’s Arctic sea ice minium (source of the image just above), this post on a range of climate science topics and how they’re misrepresented by Richard Linzen, or the NSIDC post linked below.

Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.

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  • don

    Hi josh,you should get your eyes on Antarctica more than the arctic,which will have a direct effect on your part of the world.There is a huge iceberg about to calve soon from the pine island glacier from where such icebergs usually float into the circumpolar current.It has the probability to cool this current which passes by your backdoor off Tassy .Warmer currents are making their way down the east coast of Australia due to global warming where they meet this cooler circumpolar current,and will generate clouds [fog].See coast of Labrador for similar situation.See also Rev.ch1v7 “he cometh with clouds”

  • Bob_Wallace

    This is, I think, a great video on the Arctic sea ice. Particularly interesting is the part that shows how the thickest ice has been moving out of the Arctic Ocean over the last 20+ years and is not being replaced as was happening back before the planet began to warm. That part is about one minute into the video.


    In general, we missed the Great Meltout because we watched the sea ice extent – how much of the Arctic Ocean was covered with ice – and we failed to watch what was happening to the ice thickness.

    Year after year we’e lost the really thick ice and replaced it with thinner one and two year old ice. Thin ice is much easier to melt and soon we will see a summer in which the Arctic Ocean is without ice for a few days (likely by 2016) and then we could see a year round ice free Arctic Ocean as little as ten years later.

    We’re also loosing much of our northern hemisphere snow cover. It is forming later and melting sooner.

    Without Arctic ice and snow cover our climate is going to be very disrupted.

  • duh

    “Arctic Sea Ice Extent Concludes Summer Shrinkage at Record Minimum”
    don’t you mean record maximum?

    • Arctic Sea Ice Extent Concludes… at Record Minimum (perhaps confused a bit by the middle. perhaps not elegantly titled).

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