Despite the claims by climate science deniers to the contrary, Arctic sea ice coverage continued its below-average trend this year as the ice declined to its annual minimum on Sept. 17, according to the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Over the 2014 summer, Arctic sea ice melted back from its maximum extent reached in March to a coverage area of 1.94 million square miles, according to analysis from NASA and NSIDC scientists. This year’s minimum is similar to last year’s and below the 1981-2010 average of 2.40 million square miles.
“Arctic sea ice coverage in 2014 is the sixth lowest recorded since 1978. The summer started off relatively cool, and lacked the big storms or persistent winds that can break up ice and increase melting,” said Walter Meier, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Climate deniers often cite long stretches of thin ice during the coolest seasons of the years as “evidence” that global warming isn’t real. The problem with this observation is that the ice is thinner, and newer — it doesn’t stick around like the thick ice, and retreats during the period NASA refers to as the “annual minimum”.
In other words, the thin, long stretches of ice cited by deniers is often temporary.
“Even with a relatively cool year, the ice is so much thinner than it used to be,” Meier said. “It’s more susceptible to melting.”
While summer sea ice has covered more of the Arctic in the last two years than in 2012’s record low summer, this is not an indication that the Arctic is returning to average conditions.
This year’s minimum extent remains in line with a downward trend; the Arctic Ocean is losing about 13 percent of its sea ice per decade.