Sea Ice Extent Animation updated for 2011

As they’ve done for the past few years (here is 2010), the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has produced their annual Sea Ice Extent data


While 2011 wasn’t a record year for ice loss, it came close, ending just slightly above the mark set in 2007. You can view the data for yourself by loading this KMZ file.
Here are the details for this year:

Average ice extent for September 2011 was 4.61 million square kilometers (1.78 million square miles), 2.43 million square kilometers (938,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average. This was 310,000 square kilometers (120,000 square miles) above the average for September 2007, the lowest monthly extent in the satellite record. Ice extent was below the 1979 to 2000 average everywhere except in the East Greenland Sea, where conditions were near average.

As in recent years, northern shipping routes opened up this summer. The Northern Sea Route opened by mid August and still appeared to be open as of the end of September. The southern “Amundsen Route” of the Northwest Passage, through the straits of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, opened for the fifth year in a row. Overall, sea ice in the wider and deeper northern route through Parry Channel reached a record low, according to Stephen Howell of Environment Canada, based on Canadian Ice Service analysis. Parry Channel had a narrow strip of ice that blocked a short section of the channel, but it did appear to open briefly in early September.

You can read more about this year’s data on the NSIDC site or by watching the video below, which shows all of the data from 1979-2011:

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. The Arctic ice melting pictures make a nice geographical topic. They are convincing—it is melting. However, it seems to me that articles commenting on the melting should have a few footnotes to put things in context.
    The article
    suggests melting 8000 years ago that was unrelated to human generated CO2. It states

    Our studies show that there have been large fluctuations in the amount of summer sea ice during the last 10,000 years. During the so-called Holocene Climate Optimum, from approximately 8000 to 5000 years ago, when the temperatures were somewhat warmer than today, there was significantly less sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, probably less than 50% of the summer 2007 coverage, which was absolutely lowest on record

    Note that people (and polar bears) survived this quite well. In fact some historians regard that time as the beginning of civilization [small cities, writing,….].
    More recently there was probably melting around 1100AD. This is sometimes called the Medieval
    Warming Period. Vikings settled and named Greenland then.
    Even more recently there may have been significant melting around 1940
    Of course the above are not supported by nice pictures so they should probably be regarded as tentative data . They do suggest that the current melting has precedents and should not be a source of anxiety.

  2. scary thing is-when the ice is gone and the ocean warms further, the ocean rapidly begins to evaporate, the globe dries up as any other dusty planet in the universe-WE DIE. Before then, think of the turmoil…

  3. Larry Spencer says:

    Yes, the Earth has experienced many changes in climate, but this is the first one actually enhanced by us and not by more natural causes (volcanic eruptions, asteroid impacts, changes in plate locations, etc.). Also, when most of those climate changes took place, we were either non-existent or had very small populations. I worry about the kind of world my grandchildren will inherit. It will definitely not be the one I inherited by from grandparents.

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