The Numbers Are In! 2008 Arctic Sea Ice Retreat

Mike Schuler
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September 18, 2008

With the close of this years arctic ice retreat and this years melt is just another reason to have scientists worrying.  While not quite reaching the extent of the last year, the 2008 season proved to be the second lowest on record.

Overview of conditions

On September 12, 2008 sea ice extent dropped to 4.52 million square kilometers (1.74 million square miles). This appears to have been the lowest point of the year, as sea has now begun its annual cycle of growth in response to autumn cooling.

The 2008 minimum is the second-lowest recorded since 1979, and is 2.24 million square kilometers (0.86 million square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average minimum.

Conditions in context

Despite overall cooler summer temperatures, the 2008 minimum extent is only 390,000 square kilometers (150,000 square miles), or 9.4%, more than the record-setting 2007 minimum. The 2008 minimum extent is 15.0% less than the next-lowest minimum extent set in 2005 and 33.1% less than the average minimum extent from 1979 to 2000.

This season further reinforces the long-term downward trend of sea ice extent.

Overlay of 2007 and 2008 at September minimum

The spatial pattern of the 2008 minimum extent was different than that of 2007. This year did not have the substantial ice loss in the central Arctic, north of the Chukchi and East Siberian Seas. However, 2008 showed greater loss in the Beaufort, Laptev, and Greenland Seas.

Unlike last year, this year saw the opening of the Northern Sea Route, the passage through the Arctic Ocean along the coast of Siberia. However, while the shallow Amundsen’s Northwest Passage opened in both years, the deeper Parry’s Channel of the Northwest Passage did not quite open in 2008.

(source: NSIDC)

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