WATCH: Freak Summer Cyclone Speeds Record Arctic Melt

| Mon Sep. 24, 2012 12:29 PM EDT

A freak summer cyclone churned already-weakened Arctic ice to slush, likely accelerating this summer's melt, say NASA scientists. The cyclone, which formed off Alaska and made a beeline for the North Pole in early August, severed chunks of ice and pushed them into warmer waters where some melted entirely. According to estimates by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in the last three decades only eight August storms have been this powerful.

This new visualization from NASA helps show just how far the Arctic ice has receded this summer. Strong winds colored red accelerated a record melt: Sea ice extent shrunk to 1.32 million square miles (3.41 million square kilometers), or 293,000 square miles less than the previous low, set in 2007.

August's freak Arctic cyclone assisted in this year's record melt. NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.August's freak Arctic cyclone assisted in this year's record melt. NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.

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

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