Credit: NASA / Goddard Spaceflight Center
Last month, the extent of Arctic sea ice cover dropped below 1.6 million square miles, which was the record low set in the summer of 2007. But we knew the level would continue to drop into September. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the Arctic set its minimum for 2012: 1.32 million square miles, which blows away the old record.
"The strong late season decline is indicative of how thin the ice cover is," NSIDC scientist Walt Meier released to the press today. "Ice has to be quite thin to continue melting away as the sun goes down and fall approaches."
Satellite observation of the Arctic ice cover began in 1979. The total amount of cover cycles throughout the year, typically reaching its minimum in September before summer ends and ice begins to grow again. For more about how scientists track the extent and spread of ice cover at the top of the world, check out our briefer by PM's Jerry Beilinson.