2020 Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Extent the Second Lowest Since Modern Record Keeping Began

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Arctic Sea Ice Minimum September 15 2020

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In the Arctic Ocean, sea ice reached its minimum degree of 1.44 million square miles (3.74 million square kilometers) on September 15 — the second-lowest degree given that contemporary record keeping started. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

This year’s Arctic sea ice cover diminished to the second-lowest degree given that contemporary record keeping started in the late 1970s. An analysis of satellite information by NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder reveals that the 2020 minimum degree, which was most likely reached on September 15, determined 1.44 million square miles (3.74 million square kilometers).

In winter season, frozen seawater covers practically the whole Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas. This sea ice goes through seasonal patterns of modification – thinning and diminishing throughout late spring and summertime, and thickening and broadening throughout fall and winter season. The degree of summertime sea ice in the Arctic can affect regional communities, local and international weather condition patterns, and ocean flow. In the last 20 years, the minimum degree of Arctic sea ice in the summertime has actually dropped noticeably. The most affordable degree on record was embeded in 2012, and in 2015’s degree was connected for 2nd – up until this year’s.


Arctic sea ice reached its yearly summertime minimum degree on September 15, the 2nd most affordable minimum on record. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

A Siberian heat wave in spring 2020 started this year’s Arctic sea ice melt season early, and with Arctic temperature levels being 14 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit (8 to 10 degrees Celsius) warmer than average, the ice degree kept decreasing. The 2020 minimum degree was 958,000 square miles (2.48 million square kilometers) listed below the 1981-2010 average of annual minimum levels, and 2020 is just the 2nd time on record that the minimum degree has actually fallen listed below 1.5 million square miles (4 million square kilometers).

“It was just really warm in the Arctic this year, and the melt seasons have been starting earlier and earlier,” stated Nathan Kurtz, a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The earlier the melt season starts, the more ice you generally lose.”

Thin ice likewise melts quicker than thicker floes. Dramatic drops in sea ice degree in 2007 and 2012, in addition to usually decreasing summertime degree, has actually caused less areas of thick, multi-year ice that has actually developed over several winter seasons. In addition, a current research study revealed that warmer water from the Atlantic Ocean, which is normally deep listed below the cooler Arctic waters, is approaching more detailed to the bottom of the sea ice and warming it from listed below.


Animation of Arctic sea ice degree from the March 5, 2020 optimum to the September 15, 2020 minimum, 30-year typical levels in yellow. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

There are cascading impacts in the Arctic, stated Mark Serreze, director of NSIDC. Warmer ocean temperature levels gnaw at the thicker multiyear ice, and likewise lead to thinner ice to begin the spring melt season. Melt early in the season leads to more open water, which soaks up heat from the Sun and increases water temperature levels.

“As the sea ice cover extent declines, what we’re seeing is we’re continuing to lose that multiyear ice,” Serreze stated. “The ice is shrinking in the summer, but it’s also getting thinner. You’re losing extent, and you’re losing the thick ice as well. It’s a double whammy.”

The second-lowest degree of sea ice on record is simply among numerous indications of a warming environment in the north, he stated, indicating the Siberian heat waves, forest fires, hotter-than-average temperature levels over the Central Arctic, and the thawing permafrost that caused a Russian fuel spill.

Read Arctic Sea Ice Reaches Second-Lowest Minimum on Record for more on this subject.