Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean melts to its lowest extents around the 15th of September each year. Since 1979, satellites have been used to closely monitor these dynamics of ice growth and retreat - since not only is sea ice important in determining global climate and weather patterns, but also for commerce, transportation, and national security. With these careful satellite measurements, scientists have documented an almost 9% decrease in ice extent per decade. And though some years experience ice extent levels greater than the previous year, in general there has been a dramatic annual decline in Arctic ice.
In 2010, these trends continued making this year the third lowest sea ice extent ever measured by satellite. Only 2007 and 2008 had a lesser amount during the September minimum. In 2010, ice extent around the September 15th minimum was 22% below the average minimum of the past 30 years. To put it in perspective, a loss of 22% of the contiguous U.S. would be equivalent to losing all of the land area in the New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Appalachian states. Not only is area of sea ice at near record low levels, but also the thickness and concentrations are equally low.