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2022 Arctic Summer Sea Ice Minimum Extent Tied for 10th-Lowest on Record

According to satellite observations, Arctic sea ice reached its annual minimum extent with an area of 4.67 million square kilometers (1.80 million square miles) on September 18, 2022. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Arctic sea ice reached its annual minimum extent on September 18, 2022, according to satellite observations. This year, the ice cover shrank to an area of 4.67 million square kilometers (1.80 million square miles) , approximately 1.55 million square kilometers (598,000 square miles) below the 1981-2010 average minimum of 6.22 million square kilometers (2.40 million square miles).

2022 Arctic Summer Sea Ice Minimum Extent Map

Arctic sea ice extent on September 18, 2022. Line represents the 1981-2010 median. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center

Since satellites began measuring it consistently in 1978, summer ice extent in and around the Arctic Ocean has declined significantly. The past 16 years (2007 to 2022) have been the lowest 16 minimum extents, with 2022 tying 2017 and 2018 for the 10th-lowest in 44 years of observations. The satellite record is maintained by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which hosts one of NASA’s Distributed Active Archive Centers.


This visualization of sea ice change in the Arctic uses data provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Global Change Observation Mission 1st-Water “SHIZUKU” satellite, which is part of a NASA-led partnership to operate several Earth-observing satellites. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

“This year marks a continuation of the much-reduced sea ice cover since the 1980s,” said Walt Meier. He is a sea ice researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. “That is not something that is random variations or chance. It represents a fundamental change in the ice cover in response to warming temperatures.”

Each year, Arctic sea ice usually reaches its minimum extent in September, after melting through the warmer spring and summer months. As cooler weather and winter darkness sets in, the ice will grow again, reaching its maximum extent around March.

This image visualizes sea ice change in the Arctic using data provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Global Change Observation Mission 1st-Water “SHIZUKU” satellite, which is part of a NASA-led partnership to operate several Earth-observing satellites. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Sea ice extent is defined as the total area in which ice concentration is at least 15%. This visualization shows fluctuations in Arctic sea ice extent from March through September 2022. The visualization was created at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the map is based on data acquired by the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2) instrument on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Global Change Observation Mission 1st-Water “SHIZUKU” (GCOM-W1) satellite.

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  • Tenth place is like a 'Participation Trophy!' What isn't mentioned is that the record low was in 2012 -- 10 years ago! It is impossible to predict what the future holds. However, for at least the last decade, the long-term trend has reversed.

By
Roberto Molar Candanosa, NASA’s Earth Science News Team

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