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September 22nd 2012
I left for a vacation after all the records had been broken and have returned just in time to see all the minimums get hit on the various graphs. In the past couple of years the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado, has built up a well-deserved reputation of being the number one source of information when it comes to Arctic sea ice. When they called the minimum three days ago, it was picked up far and wide by news agencies around the world, an even better response than when all the records started to break one by one a little over a month ago.
I remember well the excitement I felt around this time in 2010 and 2011, checking all the graphs and satellite images every hour, trying to predict when the melting season would end. But none of that this year. Maybe it's because I still feel overworked, despite my vacation. Maybe it's because the records were broken so early in the season, preceded by several spectacular events. Maybe it's because this melting season was so freakish that it was practically impossible to pinpoint the minimum a few days in advance.
All those factors play a role, but what I think is going on, is that this stunning melting season has made me even more acutely aware of the gravity of what is taking place. This melting season has provided the final and definite confirmation that the ice is thin, PIOMAS has it largely right, and I have a very hard time finding indications that this is going to turn around real soon. To be able to watch and write about the Arctic sea ice, I used to block out the realisation of risks, so that I could make a joke here and there and be scientifically reticent in my own amateur way, keeping up appearances, acting objective.
But my bubble has burst. I'm already watching past the minimum. As the melting season ends, it feels as if things are only beginning. The age of consequences.
Sea ice extent (SIE)
Now that AMSR2 is operational, IJIS doesn't seem to revise the last data point, so I'm including it for this latest graph:
On September 16th the trend line shortly dipped below 3.5 million km2, reaching a minimum extent of 3.489.063 square kilometres. That's more than three quarters of a million below the 2007 record, and more than a million below 2011. I knew that there was a good chance the record would be broken this year, but never imagined it would be by such a large margin. Especially not with circumstances that in many ways were the opposite of those in 2007.
The current difference between 2012 and other years is as follows: