How Low Can You Go: Record Arctic Sea-Ice Melt Continues

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Last week, the press was awash with reports of a new sea ice low in the Arctic. The previous low ever recorded was 4.17 million square kilometers of ice, and in late August, the sea ice extent as measured by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, fell to 4.1 million square kilometers. 


At the time, there were some questions about how quickly the sea ice might recover. We might have hit a new low, but it could just be an early low and in September, things might bounce back. So far, that's not happening. Here's a chart I made of the most recent data from the NSIDC:

seaicenew2.jpg

At 3.56 million square kilometers, this new record means that there is roughly half as much ice at this minimum as there was just a few decades ago. For context, here's the way the NSIDC charts it:

N_stddev_timeseries.png

It is worth noting that the NSIDC calculated that there was more sea ice on September 4 than on September 3, so we could be reaching the end of the melt. On the other hand, a similar pause occurred on August 30 before the decline continued. 
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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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