The underlying mechanisms for Arctic sea ice decline can be categories as those directly related to changes in atmospheric circulations (often referred to as dynamic mechanisms) and the rest (broadly characterized as thermodynamic processes). An attribution analysis based on the self-organizing maps (SOM) method is performed to determine the relative contributions from these two types of mechanisms to the Arctic sea ice decline in August–October during 1979–2016. The daily atmospheric circulations represented by daily 500-hPa geopotential height anomalies are classified into 12 SOM patterns, which portray the spatial structures of the Arctic Oscillation and Arctic Dipole, and their transitions. Due to the counterbalance between the opposite trends among the circulation patterns, the net effect of circulation changes is small, explaining only 1.6% of the declining trend in the number of August–October sea ice days in the Arctic during 1979–2016. The majority of the trend (95.8%) is accounted for by changes in thermodynamic processes not directly related to changes in circulations, whereas for the remaining trend (2.6%) the contributions of circulation and non-circulation changes cannot be distinguished. The sea ice decline is closely associated with surface air temperature increase, which is related to increasing trends in atmospheric water vapor content, downward longwave radiation, and sea surface temperatures over the open ocean, as well as to decreasing trends in surface albedo. An analogous SOM analysis extending seasonal coverage to spring (April–October) for the same period supports the dominating role of thermodynamic forcing in decadal-scale Arctic sea ice loss.