Status of the sea-ice cover in spring 2022

The yearly maximum Arctic sea-ice extent occurs in February/March, which is also the timing for the yearly minimum Antarctic sea-ice extent. The Norwegian Meteorological Institute uses satellite data to track and describe sea-ice extent on a daily basis.

This story will follow the sea-ice conditions toward seasonal turning points and will be updated daily.

Sea-ice maximum in the Arctic

The Arctic sea ice has reached its seasonal maximum sea-ice extent on March 7, 2022, with a coverage of 14.92 million km². This ice extent is below the 1981-2010 climatology but in the upper end of the recent ten years' low maxima. Figure 1 shows the daily sea-ice extent over the whole year, updated on a daily basis.

Arctic daily sea-ice extent
Figure 1: Time series of daily sea-ice extent for the Arctic during this year (black/red)(*). The reference curves for 2012 (blue) and 2020 (yellow) are the two years with the lowest ice extents ever recorded in the Arctic.

The table below shows the previous top-5 highest and lowest maxima of sea-ice extent recorded in the Arctic, and at what day they occurred. The 2022 maximum was not among these:

Top 5 highest Arctic maxima

Top 5 lowest Arctic maxima

1979-02-27    16.66 million km2

1982-02-25    16.55 million km2

1983-03-12    16.50 million km2

1988-03-08    16.45 million km2

1980-03-07    16.42 million km2

2017-02-23    14.60 million km2

2018-03-16    14.62 million km2

2016-03-22    14.69 million km2

2015-02-25    14.70 million km2

2006-03-09    14.83 million km2

 

Sea-ice minimum in the Antarctic

The Antarctic sea-ice extent has been among the lowest since November 2021 and now the ice has passed the seasonal minimum and fallen to all-time record-low values. The seasonal minimum was reached February 18, with a coverage of 2.17 km². Read more about the Antarctic sea-ice minimum here.

Antarctic sea-ice extent
Figure 2: Time series of daily sea-ice extent for the Southern Hemisphere during this year (black/red)(*). The reference curves for 2014 (blue) and 2017 (yellow) represent the years of record-high and record-low ever recorded in the Antarctic.

The table below shows the top-5 lowest and highest minima of sea-ice extent recorded in the Antarctic, and at what day they occurred. 2022 sea-ice extent has become a new record-low for Antarctic sea ice, replacing the previous 2017-record.

Top 5 lowest Antarctic minima

Top 5 highest Antarctic minima

2022-02-18    2.17 million km2

2017-03-01    2.24 million km2

2018-02-19    2.33 million km2

1997-02-26    2.48 million km2

2011-02-21    2.52 million km2

2008-02-19    4.09 million km2

2013-02-19    3.91 million km2

2015-02-22    3.87 million km2

2003-02-19    3.84 million km2

2014-02-18    3.83 million km2

 

Global status of the sea ice

While the Arctic sea ice is approaching its maximum and Antarctic sea ice its minimum, the total global sea ice normally reaches its seasonal minimum in mid-February. This year, the global sea ice minimum became among the three lowest on record and it occurs as one of the nine latest minima.

Global sea-ice extent
Figure 3: Time series of daily global sea-ice extent this year (black/red)(*). The reference curves for 2012 (blue) and 2020 (yellow) are the two years with the lowest ice extents ever recorded in the Arctic.

The table below shows the top-5 lowest and highest minima of global sea-ice extent, and at what day they occurred. 2022 sea ice is among the lowest extents ever recorded. Note, that the four highest global sea-ice extents all happened in the 1980s, whereas the four lowest extents all happened within the recent 7 years:

Top 5 lowest Global minima

Top 5 highest Global minima

2018-02-13    16.46 million km2

2017-02-10    16.59 million km2

2022-02-18    16.91 million km2

2016-02-17    17.10 million km2

2006-02-19    17.14 million km2

1987-03-03    19.40 million km2

1982-02-11    19.39 million km2

1983-02-10    19.31 million km2

1986-02-14    19.26 million km2

2003-02-06    19.17 million km2

 

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* In the time series of daily sea ice extent, the thick, dark grey line represents the median daily sea ice extent during the 1981–2010 reference period; the darker grey shaded envelope represents the interquartile range (difference between the 25th and 75th percentiles) during 1981–2010; the lighter grey shaded envelope represents the interdecile range (difference between the 10th and 90th percentiles) during 1981–2010; and the dashed grey lines represent the lowest and highest values recorded for each day of the year during the full record of 1979–2020. Note that the present year combines a black and a red line which represents the slightly different retrieval methods behind the data. The black covers the Interim Climate Data Record data, and the red is the supplementing near-real-time data.