[1] Satellite passive microwave observations document an overall downward trend in Arctic sea ice extent and area since 1978. While the record minimum observed in September 2002 strongly reinforced this downward trend, extreme ice minima were again observed in 2003 and 2004. Although having three extreme minimum years in a row is unprecedented in the satellite record, attributing these recent trends and extremes to greenhouse gas loading must be tempered by recognition that the sea ice cover is variable from year to year in response to wind, temperature and oceanic forcings.