The dramatic shrinkage of Arctic sea ice is one of the starkest symptoms of global warming, with potentially severe and far-reaching impacts on arctic marine and terrestrial ecology (Post et al 2013 Science 341 519–24) and northern hemisphere climate (Screen et al 2015 Environ. Res. Lett. 10 084006). In their recent article, Alexeev et al (2016 Environ. Res. Lett. 11 074022) highlight another, and unexpected, consequence of Arctic sea ice retreat: the thinning of lake ice in northern Alaska. This is attributed to early winter 'ocean effect' snowfall which insulates lake surfaces and inhibits the formation of deep lake ice. Lake ice thinning has important consequences for Arctic lake hydrology, biology and permafrost degradation.