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.