NOAA

Despite average winds and temperatures, this year’s ice was the fourth-lowest on record.

On September 11, the sea ice in the Arctic shrank to what’s likely its smallest extent this year of 1.7 million square miles. Temperatures haven’t been balmy, and ice-breaking winds were relatively still, yet this amount was well below the historical average of 2.4 msm.

Frigid nights and the sun’s disappearance ensure the ice will begin to grow in the coming months. Yet this time next year, don’t be surprised if it hits another dismally low minimum. Just as the world’s temperatures keep going up (with this summer the hottest in known history), the ice’s area keeps going down—in fact, the nine teensiest extents in modern times have fallen in the past nine years.

Only three years on record have had lower extents: 2012 (1.3 msm), 2007 (1.6 msm), and 2011 (1.67 msm). And 2015 achieved its remarkable dwarfism without much help from the usual natural suspects. Writes NOAA:

Ten years ago, Arctic sea ice set a new record unlike anything previously observed. This year’s low is 350,000 square miles (910,000 square kilometers) below that. …

“It’s as though we have a new normal in the Arctic, with less ice than in the late 20th century,” says [National Snow and Ice Data Center] lead scientist Ted Scambos. “Climatically, this was an unspectacular year in the Arctic. There was a brief warm period in July, but overall, it wasn’t particularly warm. There was no giant late-summer storm to break up ice and lead to melt. There were no especially strong wind patterns or currents to flush out old ice. And despite that relative normalcy, we reached a sea ice minimum not seen before 2007.”

A full discussion of this year’s extent is posted over at the NSIDC. But for quick reference, here’s a graphic showing how it and other lows stack up against the average extent:

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: Helsinki's national library
    Design

    How Helsinki Built ‘Book Heaven’

    Finland’s most ambitious library has a lofty mission, says Helsinki’s Tommi Laitio: It’s a kind of monument to the Nordic model of civic engagement.

  2. Three men wearing suits raise shovels full of dirt in front of an American flag.
    Equity

    How Cities and States Can Stop the Incentive Madness

    Economist Timothy Bartik explains why the public costs of tax incentives often outweigh the benefits, and describes a model business-incentive package.

  3. Equity

    Bernie Sanders and AOC Unveil a Green New Deal for Public Housing

    The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act would commit up to $180 billion over a decade to upgrading 1.2 million federally owned homes.

  4. Life

    Tailored Place-Based Policies Are Key to Reducing Regional Inequality

    Economist Timothy Bartik details the need for place-based policy to combat regional inequality and help distressed places—strategies outlined in his new book.

  5. Design

    How Advertising Conquered Urban Space

    In cities around the world, advertising is everywhere. We may try to shut it out, but it reflects who we are (or want to be) and connects us to the urban past.

×