Glaciers and ice caps

Where we are today

Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average throughout 2018 and was at record-low levels for the first two months of the year. The annual maximum occurred in mid-March and the March monthly extent was 14.48 million square km, third lowest on record and approximately 7% below the 1981-2010 average. The Arctic sea-ice extent reached its minimum in mid-September. The September monthly sea-ice extent was 5.45 million square km, approximately 28% below average. This ranked as the 6th smallest September extent on record. The 12 smallest September extents have all occurred in the 12 years since 2007.

Antarctic sea-ice extent was also well below average throughout 2018. The annual minimum extent occurred in late February and the monthly average was 2.28 million square km, 33% below average and ranked record low in the C3S dataset and 2nd lowest in the NSDIC data. For the months February through August, the monthly extent ranked among the ten smallest on record. The Antarctic sea-ice extent reached its annual maximum extent in late-September and early-October. The September monthly average extent was 17.82 million square km, 4% below average and ranked within the 5th smallest.

In the hydrological year 2016/17, observed glaciers experienced an ice loss of 0.850 meter water equivalent (m w.e.). Preliminary estimates for 2017/18 indicate a similarly negative mass balance year with an ice loss of 0.7 m w.e. With this, seven out of the ten most negative mass balance years were recorded after 2010.