Fast sea ice melting in August

Arctic ice ewtent in August 2015. Satellite image courtesy of Orbital. Earth image illustrating AMSR-E sea ice courtesy of the NASA Scientific Visualization Studio.

Arctic sea ice was melting faster than usual in August. This year’s minimum sea ice extent is likely to be the third or fourth lowest in the satellite record. 

The Arctic Ocean lost on average 75,100 square kilometers of ice per day last month.

The average sea ice extent for August 2015 was 5.61 million square kilometers, the fourth lowest August extent in the satellite record. This is 1.61 million square kilometers below the 1981 to 2010 average for the month, and 900,000 square kilometers above the record low for August, set in 2012, according to the monthly report from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The rapid loss may have been the result of hotter air temperatures above Norway and the North Pole, where they were 3 to 5 degrees above average, according to the report.

The ice coverage reaches its lowest in September. The National Snow and Ice Data Center predicts that this year will be the fourth lowest on record.

According to satellite data, the Northern Sea Route, north of the European Russian and Siberian coasts, has remained largely clear of ice for the entire month. On the Northwest Passage, the southerly route from Baffin Bay to the Beaufort Sea is ice-free, while the broader and deeper passage through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, is still obstructed by ice.

A recent report by climate scientists from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom suggests that the Arctic will see its first ice-free summer in 2050, a decade earlier than previously projected.

The Arctic sea ice extent in March 2015 was the lowest for that month since satellite records began nearly 40 years ago.