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Antarctic sea ice for July 2022 lowest on record

Antarctic sea ice for July 2022.
Average Antarctic sea ice concentration for July 2022. The thick orange line denotes the climatological ice edge for July for the period 1991-2020. Data source: ERA5. Image via C3S/ECMWF.

Antarctic sea ice for July 2022

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) – a satellite monitoring group for the European Union – said in a bulletin yesterday (August 8, 2022) that:

Antarctic sea ice extent reached its lowest value for July in the 44-year satellite data record, at 7 percent below average, well below the previous record.

The bulletin explained that the low ice values for July 2022 continued a string of below-average monthly extents observed since February 2022.

C3S also said that, globally, July 2022 was one of three warmest Julys on record, close to 0.4°C above the 1991-2020 reference period, with much above average temperatures over large parts of land masses in the Northern Hemisphere.

Map of Antarctic and Southern Ocean.
Map of the Antarctic with geographic labels. Notice that Antarctica is a land map surrounded by an ocean. Background image from Natural Earth/ C3S.
Map of Arctic and surrounding continents.
Map of the Arctic with geographic labels. Notice that the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land masses. The differences in sea ice coverage, over time, between the Arctic and Antarctic are partly because these 2 polar regions of Earth are so geographically different from one another. Background image from Natural Earth/ C3S.

Meanwhile, in the Arctic

July 2022 was also one of the hottest Julys ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere. And we wondered if the summer heat meant an extreme in Arctic sea ice decline this summer. The data aren’t all in yet, but, on August 2, 2022, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) – part of University of Colorado, Boulder, and part of NOAA – reported that Arctic sea ice cover was 4 percent lower than average in July 2022. So it’s lower than the 44-year average, but not nearly as low as some years. In fact, July 2022 has just the 12th-lowest July sea ice extent on record. In a post titled Unknowns Lie Ahead, NSIDC wrote:

Looking at the month as a whole, July [2022] sea ice extent declined by 2.42 million square kilometers (930,000 square miles), or at a rate of 78,100 square kilometers (30,200 square miles) per day, which was near the 1981 to 2010 average. This resulted in the average July extent ranking 12th-lowest in the satellite record. The downward linear trend in July sea ice extent over the 44-year-satellite record is 68,500 square kilometers (26,400 square miles) per year, or 7.2 percent per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 average.

Which all goes to show that – as always – climate is complicated.

The charts below tell more of the story.

Chart showing downward trend in Arctic sea ice since 1979.
Monthly July Arctic ice extent for 1979 to 2022. This chart shows an overall decline of 7.2 percent per decade in Arctic sea ice cover, since record-keeping via satellite began. Image via National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Map of Arctic sea ice extent (shown in white against blue ocean and gray land areas).
Arctic sea ice extent for August 1, 2022 was 6.99 million square kilometers (2.70 million square miles). The orange line shows the 1981 to 2010 average extent for that day. Image via National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Graph showing downward trend in every year.
The graph above shows Arctic sea ice extent as of August 1, 2022, along with daily ice extent data for four previous years and the record low year. 2022 is shown in blue, 2021 in green, 2020 in orange, 2019 in brown, 2018 in magenta, and 2012 in dashed brown. The 1981 to 2010 median is in dark gray. The gray areas around the median line show the interquartile and interdecile ranges of the data. Image via National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Bottom line: For us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s been a hot summer. And Arctic sea ice has declined below the 44-year average, but ranks only 12th-lowest in the satellite record. On the other end of the globe – where it’s winter now – Antarctic sea ice extent reached its lowest value for July in the 44-year satellite data record, at 7 percent below average.

Via Copernicus Climate Change Service

Via NSIDC

Read more: Openings in Antarctic sea ice influence global climate

Read more: NASA Studies Find Previously Unknown Loss of Antarctic Ice

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