Arctic sea ice shrinks to second-lowest low on record

satellite image of Arctic sea ice minimum extent for 2016

Arctic sea ice reached its smallest extent for the year on September 10, tying for the second-smallest minimum size on record. The orange line marks the 1981 through 2010 average sea ice extent for the date.


Sea ice around the North Pole has reached its second-lowest low on record, tying with 2007, scientists at NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced September 15.

Arctic sea ice reached its expected low point for the year on September 10, bottoming out at an area of 4.14 million square kilometers. That’s well below the 1981 through 2010 average of 6.22 million square kilometers, though above the record-lowest extent of 3.39 million square kilometers, set in 2012.

The silver-medal finish came after a summer of relatively cool temperatures, cloudy skies and stormy weather — conditions that typically limit sea ice shrinkage. The lack of ice probably arose from a poor starting position: The melt season began with the smallest maximum sea ice extent on record.

Shrinking sea ice can speed up warming, threaten Arctic species and spread pollution.

More Stories from Science News on Climate