Every year for many years now, scientists and others have kept an eye on the annual Arctic sea ice minimum, which occurs when the floating Arctic ice cap melts to its smallest size of the summer. That minimum usually comes around mid-September, and, although the ice is still melting this year as of this writing (August 23, 2013), it now appears unlikely that 2013 will break a new record for the least ice observed in the Arctic. At the same time, according to NASA:
… this year’s melt rates are in line with the sustained decline of the Arctic ice cover observed by NASA and other satellites over the last several decades.
Even if this year ends up being the sixth- or seventh-lowest extent, what matters is that the 10 lowest extents recorded have happened during the last 10 years. The long-term trend is strongly downward.
The icy cover of the Arctic Ocean was measured at 2.25 million square miles (5.83 million square kilometers) on Aug. 21. For comparison, the smallest Arctic sea ice extent on record for this date, recorded in 2012, was 1.67 million square miles (4.34 million square kilometers), and the largest recorded for this date was in 1996, when ice covered 3.16 millions square miles (8.2 million square kilometers) of the Arctic Ocean.
Read more about Arctic sea ice minimum in 2013, from NASA, or watch the video below.
Bottom line: In late August 2013, Arctic sea ice is continuing to melt. It typically reaches its minimum extent for the summer in mid-September. This year, Arctic sea ice does not appear headed toward a new record for least amount of sea ice at the yearly minimum. However, the 10 lowest extents of Arctic sea ice all have happened during the last 10 years. The trend is strongly downward.