Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Volumes 1979-2019

Andy Lee RobinsonOct 8, 2019

Latest visualization of the startling decline of Arctic Sea Ice, showing the minimum volume reached every September since 1979. At this rate, it is expected that the Arctic ocean will become ice-free for an increasingly large part of the year beginning sometime in the 2030s.

The rate of loss is staggering. In just 40 years the volume of Summer Arctic sea ice has declined by about 80%.
What may normally take tens of thousands of years to happen in geologic timescales has happened within half a human lifespan, and continuing.

I also composed and played the piano music, “Ice Dreams”. A longer version played live can be found here:

About the data: Sea Ice Volume is calculated using the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS, Zhang and Rothrock, 2003) developed at APL/PSC.
Source data for this graph is available from

More information:
The image first appeared in still form on Think Progress, and I decided to try to bring it to life over the following weeks:

An earlier video also featured on BBC’s Newsnight in 2012:

I produced the animation using hand-written perl and php code to create povray scripts, and scheduling task distribution using MySQL between 8 linux servers working in parallel to render 980 frames at 1920 x 1080 resolution. The “farm” renders 22 frames simultaneously taking between 1-2 hours per frame.

On completion, I combine the images and piano track with ffmpeg into a high quality mp4 video.

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