Satellite-based passive microwave images of the sea ice have provided a reliable tool for continuously monitoring changes in the Arctic ice since 1979. Every summer the Arctic ice cap melts down to what scientists call its "minimum" before colder weather begins to cause ice cover to increase. This graph displays the area of the minimum sea ice coverage each year from 1979 through 2016. In 2016, the Arctic minimum sea ice covered an area of 3.57 million square kilometers (about 1.38 million square miles).

This visualization shows the expanse of the annual minimum Arctic sea ice for each year from 1979 through 2016 as derived from passive microwave data. A graph overlay shows the area in million square kilometers for each year's minimum day. The date shown in the upper right corner indicates the current year being displayed.


NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
The Blue Marble data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC).