Arctic ice in trouble

The receding sea ice at the North Pole threatens arctic species

The Fast Lane

With sea ice disappearing faster and for longer periods of time, new routes for trade and tourism are opening up. But as ships begin to use these channels, they could disrupt whale migration patterns, disturb species that breed and feed on sea ice, and create new potential for oil spills in harsh and often uncharted ocean territory.

arctic sea ice graphic
Record minimum sea ice extent (September 2012)
Median minimum sea ice extent (September 1981-2010)
Northwest Passage
Northeast Passage
Arctic Bridge Route
Arctic Circle
North Pole

Low Floes

1985 →

2000 →


Each year around September, Arctic sea ice recedes to its minimum extent. In September 2016, sea ice reached a near-record low, exceeded only by the September 2012 measurement, which was the lowest since record keeping began in 1979. Overall, September median sea ice coverage has dwindled significantly in the last 30 years, feeding a cycle of increased retention of solar energy and speeding climate change.

Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center; Natural Earth

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