2020 may not set a record, but it looks to be close.
As the Arctic sea-ice melt season nears its peak, one community of scientists is poring over satellite images, running experimental forecast models, and asking the perennial question: How low will it go?
For five months this spring and summer, Arctic sea ice melt appeared on track to eclipse the minimum extent of 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles) observed in September 2012 - the lowest during the satellite era. As recently as July 31, sea ice was tracking 396,000 square kilometers (153,000 square miles) below the 2012 trajectory.
An abrupt change in the weather at the end of July slowed the melt dramatically. So the consensus of the Sea Ice Prediction Network was that this year would likely fall short of the record.
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Image via NOAA Research