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Summer Arctic Sea Ice Recovers From 2012, But Trend “Decidedly” Down

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Sea ice at Svalbard, Norway, 2013 (Photograph courtesy Smudge 9000/Flickr)

The Arctic’s melt season has concluded, and this year the sea ice rebounded from its historic low last year, according to a release Friday from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Sea ice extent fell to its lowest level of 2013 on September 13, reaching  1.97 million square miles (5.10 million square kilometers). Levels in the previous year fell to a record low of 1.32 million square miles (3.41 million square kilometers).

“While this is a very welcome recovery from last year’s record low, the overall trend is still decidedly downwards,” NSIDC director Mark Serreze said in the release. That trend is quite visible and striking in our recently published Interactive Map: The Changing Arctic. Though the ice cover can be seen fluctuating from year to year starting in 1979 when tracking began, its overall cover undeniably shrinks.

The areas that saw a rebound in ice this year were the Beaufort, Chukchi, and East Siberian sea regions; the Canadian Archipelago also retained more ice, keeping the Northwest Passage closed, according to the NSIDC.

Despite the increase over last year, this year’s low is the sixth-lowest level on the satellite record. Considered a bellwether for climate change, the Arctic’s sea ice has been shrinking steadily by a “pretty darn big” rate of about 12 percent a decade, Serreze told the Associated Press.  (See related poll and discussion: “The Big Energy Question: What Do We Urgently Need to Know as Arctic Development Ramps Up?“)

National Geographic will update the map above soon with the data from 2013. (See further Arctic coverage from the Great Energy Challenge here: The Arctic: The Science of Change.)

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Interactive Map: The Changing Arctic
See sea ice recession, shipping activity and key sites.