Skip to main content

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA: the Japanese version of NASA), which keeps tabs on Arctic sea ice extent from satellites, today released data showing that the extent of Arctic sea ice has reached a new all-time low, breaking the previous record of September 24, 2007.

Today's record (August 24, 2012): 4,189,375 square km.
Previous record (September 24, 2007): 4,254,531 square km.

And that's not the worst of it. Not only is today a record, tomorrow will be too. And the day after that. And the day after that. And the day after that. We still have four weeks left to go in the melt season, and it's likely that every single day will set a new all time low.

Follow below the arabesque to see the graph.


By this time of the year, the ice melt has usually slowed down some, as we head toward the equinox and the beginning of the re-freeze season. Not this year. The decline here at the end of August is still zipping along at rates usually seen only in June and July.

Note that this is sea ice extent. We broke the record for sea ice area a few days ago. The difference is that sea ice looks a lot like swiss cheese around the edges, with a lot of holes. Sea ice area doesn't include the holes, while sea ice extent does.

But the real action is happening in sea ice volume, which continues its decline at and accelerating pace.

For those of us who live at high latitudes and see lakes melt in the spring, it's clear what's going on. Ice melts mostly from below, not from the edges. That's why sea ice volume is going down so sharply: the ice is getting thinner. I see this every year when the lake behind my house melts. The ice gets thinner and thinner, and then very suddenly, the area of ice drops from full-lake to no-lake in a day or two.

We should expect to see the same in Arctic sea ice too. What's going to happen is that sea ice area and extent are headed for a dramatic non-linear collapse, and this year's decline is simply a foreshadowing of that. In the next two to four years, we will see an essentially ice-free Arctic Ocean at the end of summer.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site