Shallow melt ponds on the surface of consolidated sea ice act as skylights that promote massive under-ice phytoplankton blooms. These under-ice blooms may boost estimates of Arctic phytoplankton productivity by a factor of 10.

Arctic sea ice extent set a new record low at the end of the summer melt season on September 16, 2012. But extent is not the only quality of the ice that is changing. Wind and ocean circulation patterns are conspiring with a warmer climate to reduce the amount of year-round (multi-year) ice, transforming the remaining ice into a younger, thinner version of its old self.

India's monsoon rains finally arrived in August—two months late—and vegetation conditions showed some improvement.

Arctic sea ice extent fell to 1.58 million square miles on August 26, 2012. This was 27,000 square miles smaller than the previous record low of 1.61 million square miles set in 2007.

A series of unusually strong, long-lasting high pressure systems has parked over Greenland this summer. As many a weather forecaster has explained, high pressure generally leads to calm winds and sunny skies, both of which boost temperatures during the all-day sunshine of mid-summer at high latitudes. The conditions contributed to widespread melting of the ice sheet.

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