Lowest Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Extent for 2018

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NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center, or NSIDC, have reported that arctic sea ice had most likely reached its lowest extent in 2018 on Sept. 19th, and again on the 23rd. When showcasing satellite data, it showed that 2018 has tied with 2008 and 2010 for the “sixth lowest summertime minimum extent” in their satellite record.

This news further showcases that increasing temperatures have led to strong, overall decreases in the extents of Arctic sea ice, exceedingly so in the minimum summertime extent. This decrease is expected to further affect the earth’s weather patterns, and the movement of its oceans.

Map comparing Arctic sea ice extent on September 19, 2018 and September 23, 2018. Map: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Map comparing Arctic sea ice extent on September 19, 2018 and September 23, 2018. Map: National Snow and Ice Data Center

This previous summer has shown some areas of the earth experiencing warmer than average temperatures with others remaining colder than what’s normally expected. Despite this mixture of changes, the minimum sea ice extent is stated as being, “629,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average of yearly minimum extents.”

Table 1. Twelve lowest minimum Arctic sea ice extents (satellite record, 1979 to present)
RANKYEARMINIMUM ICE EXTENTDATE
IN MILLIONS OF SQUARE KILOMETERSIN MILLIONS OF SQUARE MILES
120123.391.31Sept. 17
22007
2016
4.16
4.17
1.61
1.61
Sept. 18
Sept. 10
420114.341.68Sept. 11
520154.431.71Sept. 9
62008
2018
2010
4.59
4.59
4.62
1.77
1.77
1.78
Sept. 19
Sept. 19 & 23
Sept. 21
920174.671.80Sept. 13
102014
2013
5.03
5.05
1.94
1.95
Sept. 17
Sept. 13
1220095.121.98Sept. 13

Source:  National Snow and Ice Data Center

2018’s melt season has also seen the reopening of a hole in the icepack north of Greenland, where the thickest of the Arctic’s sea ice is found. This past February, a similar opening was seen, leading to speculation that the region could become vulnerable if this original ice cover is replaced with thinner ice, when the exposed water freezes over.

The past four decades has had less complete measurements of sea ice thickness, when compared to the overall volume and mass changes of the sea ice cover. But with the recent launch of NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 – or ICESat-2 – scientists will be able to use satellite data to create more detailed maps of sea ice thickness in both of Arctic and Antarctic regions.

Watch: 2018 Arctic sea ice ties for sixth lowest minimum extent on NASA record

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