Vanishing

  • Released Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:52PM
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On September 16, 2012, sea ice in the Arctic reached a new record low, covering less area than at any point in the three decades of satellite records. Arctic sea ice melts each spring and summer, reaching its minimum size in mid-September. During the fall and winter months the ice returns, beginning a new freeze-thaw cycle. However, as ocean and surface temperatures in the Arctic have increased in recent decades, analysis by NASA scientists has shown the area of the annual sea ice minimum is declining even faster than climate models predicted. What's worse is that this trend has shown no sign of letting up. The visualization shows satellite measurements of the Arctic sea ice minimum each year from 1979 to 2012, a period in which the area of the minimum shrunk by half.

By the late 1980s, the minimum area had begun to tick down, but registered barely below the initial 1979 measurement.

By the late 1980s, the minimum area had begun to tick down, but registered barely below the initial 1979 measurement.

Sea ice in 2007 made a drastic single-year plunge, as the minimum area dropped 40 percent below the 1979-2000 average.

Sea ice in 2007 made a drastic single-year plunge, as the minimum area dropped 40 percent below the 1979-2000 average.

Despite year-to-year variation, the area of the annual Arctic sea ice minimum is declining and the decline is accelerating.

Despite year-to-year variation, the area of the annual Arctic sea ice minimum is declining and the decline is accelerating.

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Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center