According to reports from the Polar Research Group at the University of Illinois, sea ice area diminished by 140,000 square kilometers since the last reading taken yesterday. This very large single day drop has punctuated the end of an already strong melt since August 2nd. Over that time, 580,000 square kilometers of Arctic sea ice has melted. This equals a rate of more than 80,000 square kilometers each day (latest values are for August 9th).
Currently, 3,203,000 square miles remain of Arctic Sea Ice. This is within close striking distance of the record low set for 2007 at slightly more than 2,900,000 square kilometers. At the current average rate of melt, this record will be breached within 4 days.
A strong Arctic cyclone, whose remnants can be seen in the above graphic, churned through the region over this past week. The low is slowly degrading, but may still be providing energy, wave action, and moist air that could be enhancing sea ice melt. Most researchers have noted that the storm probably increased the rate of ice melt. And we have seen increased melt in the regions the storm impacted.
A satellite image of the storm taken earlier this week has been provided by NASA:
If you look closely, you should be able to pick out the swirl of white clouds over the ice sheet.
So far, early August sea ice melt has been very rapid. Already, current values place sea ice area between the fourth and fifth lowest levels ever recorded. As noted above, if melt continues at the current rate, we are just days away from reaching the record lows set for 2007. But given the weather event that is now fading, it is possible that rates of melt will be a bit milder in coming days. Needless to say, we are still very close to a new record with more than a month of melt left.
NSIDC is now showing that a large area of sea ice has now separated from the main flow. Detachment of this kind is another sign that sea ice have become vulnerable to the affects of storms and strong winds in the Arctic. In this case, this sea ice was stranded and separated from the main sheet by strong storm winds associated with the recent Arctic Cyclone. You can see the detached section in the image provided by NSIDC:
Now all the major sea ice monitoring sites are showing this detachment.
NSIDC is also showing a very large drop in sea ice extent. This roughly tracks with the large drop in sea ice area observed by the Polar Research Group. Here is the most recent sea ice extent graph from NSIDC:
Note the drop in extent after the recent Arctic cyclone.