Arctic sea-ice at lowest levels since observations began

August 28, 2012
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(This article was first published on Revolutions, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

RealClimate.org used the R language and data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center to create this chart showing the extent of Arctic sea-ice in each year since satellite observations began in 1978, and the current extent of ice coverage (in red). Even though there are several weeks of annual melting yet to come, the area of ice covering the north pole is at already at a record low:

RealClimate-nsidc
The record low is the horizontal red line. You can track how far this year's melt will exceed that record by running this R script, which will download the latest data from NSIDC to create an updated chart. (R users may also be interested in the use of readJPEG and rasterImage to create the background for the chart.)

Putting those time series into geographic context, NASA has also released the visualization below, which shows the average minimum extent of sea ice compared with a current satellite view. The yellow line is the average ice pack of all previous years, i.e. the low point of each of the white lines above.

NASA_seaiceextent_aug262012

BadAstronomer has more details about how the image above was made.

RealClimate.org: An update on the Arctic sea-ice

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