Arctic Sea Ice Coverage

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Published by Katie Stokes

Environment - Arctic Sea Ice Coverage (from The National Snow & Ice Data Center)
John S. Stokes III

Arctic Sea Ice Coverage in Millions of Square Kilometers by year
Chart updated once a year, usually in January

Chart derived from data made available by the National Snow & Ice Data Center:
Top line: Annual Maximum
Middle line: Annual Average
Lower line: Annual Minimum
Purple dots indicate new lows


Since the coverage of Arctic Sea Ice has been systematically monitored by satellite starting in the late 1970's, the maximum, minimum and annual average for each year have been in a generally declining trend.

January 2, 2021 - In a repeat of the previous year, the maximum Arctic ice coverage increased and the minimum coverage decreased. The overall trend of gradual ice coverage decline continues. The year's minimum was the second lowest. The average coverage declined ever so slightly, also at a second lowest level. The maximum coverage reached a seven year high although the thickness has decreased.

January 1, 2020 - In the past year the maximum Arctic ice coverage increased and the minimum coverage decreased. What to make of this? Looking at the average coverage for the year, there was a decline and to a level just above the record low in the 40 years satellite record. So the slow overall decline continues, while a run-away collapse remains to be seen. The year-end figure for 2019 was at a five year high.

January 1, 2019 - There was just a slight down-tick in Arctic ice coverage during 2018. The year's maximum came in just a little higher than the 2017 record low. The average coverage figure declined slightly with the average coming in also at a second lowest reading. The minimum figure declined slightly from last year, but remains well above the record low set in 2012. I don't see a run-away collapse here nor do I see an ice-free Arctic anytime soon. However the general gradual melting trend remains intact with future consequences to be revealed.

January 4, 2018 - I now have a new data source, The National Snow & Ice Data Center. Their figures follow the pattern of the prior dataset obtained from JAXA Satellite Monitoring of Environmental Studies but in general are a few percent higher. Some of my prior comments have been invalidated going by the new data source, thus I've deleted them here. I've completely revamped the chart. I've added marks (purple dots) to each of the maximum, average and minimum graphs whenever a new annual low was reached. The annual minimum graph made a headliner low in 2012 triggering fears of an ice-less summer in the near future. However, the minimums in the past five years have remained above that level. None-the-less the overall decline in Arctic ice continues, as a new low in the maximum annual ice was reached last year (2017) following a new low in 2015. The average annual ice extent ticked up just slightly from latest low made in 2016. Furthermore, not shown in the chart, is that the year-end figure for 2017 (12.418) set a new year-end low.