Satellites have provided a reliable tool for continuously monitoring changes in the Arctic ice since 1979. Every summer, the Arctic ice cap melts to what scientists call its "minimum" before colder weather begins to cause ice cover to increase.

This visualization shows the expanse of the annual minimum Arctic sea ice for each year from 1979 through 2021, with a graph overlay.

In 2021, the Arctic minimum sea ice covered an area of 4.13 million square kilometers (1.6 million square miles).


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