Arctic Now Loses Nearly 300 Billion Tonnes of Ice Every Year

We have spent a lot of time talking about the lack of ice cover on our Great Lakes. But we are not the only ones seeing a lack of ice. Both the Arctic and Antarctic Circles are losing a combined 427 billion tonnes per year of ice.

Antarctica is losing 149 billion tonnes per year of ice. Greenland is losing 278 billion tonnes per year. The trend has been this way since data has been recorded in 1979. The graph from NASA below shows a more rapid decrease in ice over the past few decades.

Antarctica Ice Mass Per Year (NASA)


Greenland Ice Mass Per Year (NASA)


It is expected that ice coverage increases and decreases throughout the year due to annual temperature variations. Ice is usually at its minimum in terms of coverage at the end of a hemisphere’s summer. The Arctic Sea Ice reaches its minimum in September as the end of northern Hemispheres summer wraps up.

The average September minimum ice coverage has been declining to 13.1% per decade. In other words, Every 10 years the total amount of ice on the arctic sea is 13.1% less.

Million Square Kilometers of Ice Per Year (NASA)

Seaice 1

Here is the ice coverage across the Arctic Circle from 1979. According to, sea ice coverage was at 7.0 million square kilometers at its September minimum.

Ice Cover Ocean

Now, look at the ice coverage from 2020 at its September minimum. nearly half of what it was in 1979 at 3.92 million square kilometers. To put his into perspective, the arctic sea has lost over 19 football fields (in length) of ice since 1979.

Ice Cover Ocean2

You’ll notice the white shade (ice coverage) dramatically changes from 1979 to 2020. A much smaller area of ice is present than 42 years ago. We know that there will be long-term effects of melting ice. More research is ongoing with other consequences from melting ocean/sea ice.

Categories: Weather