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Sea ice extents continue to set new records: Arctic, Antarctic, and global results
Remote Sensing of Environment  (IF10.164),  Pub Date : 2021-10-21, DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2021.112753
Claire L. Parkinson, Nicolo E. DiGirolamo

The multi-channel satellite passive-microwave record of Earth's sea ice coverage, extending back to the late 1970s, has long revealed declining sea ice coverage in the Arctic but through 2015 revealed an overall increase rather than decrease in Antarctic sea ice coverage. Following major decreases in Antarctic sea ice since 2015, the 42-year 1979–2020 satellite dataset now shows recent losses in sea ice coverage in both hemispheres, and this is convincingly demonstrated by the enumeration of monthly and yearly record high and record low sea ice extents experienced over the course of the 42 years. In fact, one of the most convincing statistics on the declining Arctic sea ice cover is the fact that since 1986 the Arctic has not experienced a single monthly record high sea ice extent in any month but has experienced 93 monthly record lows. In contrast, all 12 calendar months have their 42-year Antarctic monthly record high sea ice extents in the period 2007–2015, while 8 of the 12 calendar months have had Antarctic record lows since 2015. Globally, every calendar month has registered a new monthly record low within the past 5 years. These results are complemented (and somewhat tempered) by quantification of the range of monthly and yearly sea ice extent values over the 42 years. For instance, although the Arctic's lowest September monthly average sea ice extent (in 2012) is 53% lower than its highest September monthly average sea ice extent (in 1980), the other months have far smaller percent differences between their lowest and highest Arctic values. For yearly average sea ice extents, the Arctic's lowest value (in 2020) is 18% lower than its highest value (in 1982), the Antarctic's lowest value (in 2017) is 16% lower than its highest value (in 2014), and the global lowest value (in 2019) is only 12% lower than its highest value (in 1982).