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CO2 Budget Depletion


Arctic Sea Ice Loss

Research shows that Arctic sea ice loss is directly related to global CO2 emissions; Stroeve & Notz, 2018.

Explore what this means in this interactive app.


ARCTIC SEA-ICE EXTENT IS SHRINKING FAST. Arctic sea ice is an indicator of climate stability. Today, there is about 40% less sea ice coverage at the end of the melt season than existed in the 1980s. The ice area shrank by almost half the size of the entire European Union. What was left was smaller than at any time in at least 1,000 years.


SEA ICE LOSS WORSENS WARMING. White ice cover reflects much of the sun’s energy back out to space. But as ice disappears, the dark ocean is exposed, absorbs more of the sun’s energy, and warms, helping to melt more snow and ice. Estimates suggest that the loss of Arctic sea ice together with reductions in snow cover over the boreal land areas will exacerbate global warming by 25 - 40%.



The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the world’s most authoritative source on climate change. It reviews all published literature to provide comprehensive and objective scientific information.

  • The area of Arctic seas covered by late-summer sea ice is shrinking by 10.5 to 15.1% every decade. Between 1979 and 2018, the extent of the sea ice dwindled for every month of the year.
  • Arctic sea ice is getting younger and less stable. In the 40 years between 1979 and 2018, the proportion of Arctic sea ice at least five years old shrank from almost a third to just two percent.
  • When global warming reaches between 1.5 and 2°C, scientists expect the Arctic to be practically sea ice-free during September in some years. If temperatures climb further, September sea ice will be mostly a thing of the past.



Charts best viewed in landscape mode, rotate your phone to explore this chart.

Shrinking sea ice extent means more dark ocean exposed, and more warming energy absorbed by Arctic waters, melting yet more ice. Scientists estimate that adding only 800 million tonnes more CO2 to the atmosphere will heat the Arctic enough to leave it practically sea ice free in the late summer. The way things are going, that’s just a few decades away.



Charts best viewed in landscape mode, rotate your phone to explore this chart.

Arctic sea ice is getting younger, thinner and less stable. While Arctic sea ice comes and goes with winter freezing and summer thaw, a significant portion of Arctic sea ice once remained through the Arctic summers, surviving from year to year. Ice older than 4 years old used to make up over 30% of the Arctic Ocean, but it now makes up only 3.1 percent of the ice cover. Further, thin first-year ice now makes up the majority of the Arctic Basin, making it more vulnerable to melting out each summer.


The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.

Greenland rate of ice loss
4.5 hundred thousands l/s
on average in 1986-2015
4.5 tons per second
on average in 1986-2015
Worldwide number of disasters
265 disasters
more events in 2022 in comparison to 1970s
183 disasters
more events in 2022 in comparison to 1980s
100 disasters
more events in 2022 in comparison to 1990s
Arctic Sea Ice Extent
1,101,500 km²
below 1981-2010 average on 17-Mar-2023
425,289 mi²
below 1981-2010 average on 17-Mar-2023
Arctic Amplification
2.81 times
faster than global average in last 30 years
2.59 times
faster than global average in last 50 years
2.49 times
faster than global average in last 70 years
Arctic Wildfire emissions
0.08 megatonnes CO₂e
CO₂e emissions in 2023 so far
Arctic Air Quality (PM2.5)
1.97 microgram per cubic meter
on 18-Mar-2023