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Arctic Sea Ice Hits Second Lowest Extent in Satellite Record

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Arctic sea ice has reached its annual minimum. And according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), this year’s extent—1.6 million square miles—is the second lowest extent on record, trailing only 2012 when sea ice dropped to 1.37 million square miles. This year is tied with the minimums we saw in 2007 and 2016.

The trend in sea ice loss is clear. NSIDC reports that the 13 smallest sea ice extents since the late 1970s—when satellite records began—have all occurred in the last 13 years. The area of the sea ice minimum has declined 12.8 percent per decade over the past 40 years, in large part due to climate change.


Carbon pollution is driving up temperatures in the Arctic at twice the rate of the rest of the world, contributing to melting out sea ice. What’s happening in the Arctic may feel lifetimes away and hard to grasp, but the changes are having direct impact on the people who live in the region. And the loss of ice could be influencing weather in mid-latitudes.


Arctic sea ice is hardly the only sad ice on the planet. This weekend, the Swiss held a funeral for a dying glacier. Icelanders held one for their first dead glacier in August. In the Antarctic, scientists have proposed stopping ice shelves from collapsing using everything from artificial snow and underwater berms in order to slow sea level rise.

The real solution is to end greenhouse gas emissions. And global leaders are finally feeling the pressure as youth take to the streets and the United Nations to demand action from world governments. Whether it will create change fast enough to save summer sea ice remains to be seen.