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Powerful Video of 2012 Record Arctic Sea Ice Melt

The summer meltback of Arctic sea ice still hadn't reached it's full extent when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released this video on Monday (best guess was that it would happen within a few days), but what it shows is dramatic enough as it is: you can watch the ice shrink inexorably from January 1 through September 14, 2012, at which point it covers nearly 40 percent less area than its historical average.

The melting this year has been so rapid and extensive that the previous record minimum, set in 2007, had already been shattered by August 26, with at least three weeks left in the melt season. For the month of August overall, which was the fourth warmest on record globally, ice cover averaged just 1.82 million square miles, the lowest for any August since modern observations. During August, the Arctic lost an average of 35,400 square miles of ice per day, NOAA reported, which was the fastest rate ever observed for the month. That is the equivalent of losing an area of ice equal to the state of Maine every day for 31 days.

« Climate in Context


By John (Athens,Ga 30606)
on September 17th, 2012

What more proof do you need to support climate change?  Ice doesn’t melt b/c it is staying the same temperature.  Well, at least we are getting closer to all of our goods in Asia.  They will be really useful when we are all dead.

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By Craig (Santa Rosa, CA 95402)
on September 17th, 2012

Great video.

But in addition to the video, I wish the article included a map with the ice at its greatest extent in the last year (or even at the all time high since the satellite pictures started) and a map with the ice at its lowest extent. The video can be stopped but I wish I could put the visuals in more context, and without the black areas.

Links to some maps would also be helpful.

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By nik (salzburg)
on November 15th, 2012

Since this is Climate in Context everyone should know that NASA said the melt was due to an unusual storm. Wether this storm was due to climate change cannot be stated.

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By michael comberiate (HIGHLAND MARYLAND 20777)
on February 8th, 2013

Can I download a copy of this video to use in my own presentations?

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By Lindsay Harmon
on February 8th, 2013

Michael Comberiate,

Sure thing. If you follow this link to NOAA’s visualization laboratory you’ll find you can download a high-resolution version by clicking a link beneath the video and associated text:


Lindsay Harmon
Web Producer, Climate Central

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