In 2012, news about the record low of Arctic sea ice minimum extent went around the world. Now, the Arctic sea ice maximum extent also has reached an all-time record low according to the data presented by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. A mere 14.4 million square kilometers of the Arctic Ocean were covered by ice.
According to data presented by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Colorado, the winter of 2016/17 will go down in history as the lowest Arctic sea ice extent in the 38 years since records started. The ice only covered 14.42 million square kilometers of the Arctic Ocean. This is 1.22 million square kilometer less than the 30- average maximum of 15.6 million and 97’000 square kilometers less than the record low of 2015. Overall, this is the sixth consecutive season of below average maximum extent of Arctic sea ice.
The record low is the result of several factors such as increased warming of Arctic waters due to lack of sea ice in previous years and a very unusual warm winter 2016/17 when several heat waves had struck the Arctic with temperatures more than 2.5 °C above average or even higher. At the North Pole, scientists at times had measured temperatures just below 0°C when it was supposed to be 10 degrees lower. In addition, in the Chukchi and the Barents Sea, average temperatures were 5 degrees higher than average.
According to data presented by the ESA CyoSat-2 satellite, Arctic sea ice was also thinner this winter than average. This will increase pressure on ice-loving animals such as polar bears and seals living on the ice as well as marine organisms below the surface whose life cycles heavily depend on ice formation. Additionally, the lack of ice means no sunlight reflection and a further warming of Arctic waters. Some researchers already issued warnings that the Arctic sea ice formation has passed the tipping point and we will see an ice-free Arctic within the next 15 years.
Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center