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Update on the global ice situation

July 03, 2019; 2:56 PM

Both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent is running well below the 1981-2010 average as of early July. In addition, there was a record melt event on the Greenland ice sheet during a 10-day period in June.

Arctic sea ice extent

Arctic sea ice extent last month ranked as the second lowest on record for the month of June. The lowest June sea ice extent occurred in 2016. The satellite-measured records go back to 1979.

Currently, Arctic sea ice extent is running very close to 2012, which was the year with the lowest annual minimum sea ice extent on record. The most recent sea ice outlooks for the 2019 minimum extent, which normally occurs in September, suggest that 2012 will remain the lowest on record. Time will tell.

Antarctic sea ice situation

Sea ice extent in the Antarctic region was the lowest on record for the month of June last month. The previous record low extents for June occurred in 2002 and 2017.

Despite the record low, just looking at the month of June, sea ice extent in the Antarctic region is still trending slightly upward over the past 30 years.

The NSIDC graph below is very telling. It shows the annual mean sea ice extent for the Northern and Southern Hemispheres since the start of the satellite record.

As you can see, the red line (Antarctic region) is still trending upward, despite the recent big drops. The clear downward trend with the blue line (Arctic) is unmistakable. One big difference between the red and blue lines is that there is clearly much more year-to-year variability in the Antarctic compared to the Arctic over the past 20 years.


The combination of a warm spring and a lack of snowfall resulted in an early start to the melt season on the Greenland Ice Sheet this year.

The graph below shows the record high melt extent that occurred during June 2019.

The second image from the NSIDC and the University of Georgia, shows the melt day anomaly from Jan. 1, 2019, to June 20, 2019.

We can see that most of the edges along the ice sheet saw a higher number of melt days compared to normal so far this year (red shading). The one region that saw a reduced number of melt days compared to normal was across the far southern tip of Greenland.

The NSIDC notes that between June 11 and June 20, the total melt on the Greenland Ice Sheet was about 80 billion tons, of which approximately 30 billion tons ran off the ice into the ocean, or was temporarily stored in lakes. That's a lot of water!

**Based on some calculations, 80 billion tons of water is about equal to the amount of water it takes to fill 32,000,000 (32 million) Olympic size swimming pools. That's a lot of water!

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com



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