Extent of Arctic Ice Lowest in 38 Years

A key climate change indicator, the extent of arctic sea ice, was at a record low maximum extent for the third straight year. This year, arctic sea ice reached it’s yearly maximum on March 7 when it obtained 5.57 million square miles. After March 7 sea ice started to decline with the start of the melt season. The 2017 arctic maximum is now the lowest in the 38-year satellite record, lower then 2015’s maximum of 5.605 million square miles that was reached on February 25, and 2016’s maximum of 5.606 million square miles.

In addition to the low ice extents, scientists also found that the arctic ice is thin. Data from both the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite and the University of Washington’s Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System showed that this winter’s ice was slightly thinner then the past four years and that the ice volume was unusually low for this time of the year.

Sea ice extent is measured and compiled by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which is part of the is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder and NASA.

The sea ice minimum will occur sometime in September. NSIDC scientists noted that Such thin ice going into the melt season sets us up for the possibility of record low sea ice conditions this September when the sea ice minimum is likely to occur.

In February 2017 the extent of artic ice reached record lows. Arctic sea ice extent for February 2017 averaged 5.51 million square miles, the lowest February extent on record since satellites began recording arctic ice 38 years ago in 1979. This extent is 15,400 square miles below February 2016, the previous lowest arctic ice extent for the month. It is also below the February 1981 to 2010 long-term average by 1.18 million square kilometers (455,600 square miles).

For more information see Another warm month in the Arctic or Arctic sea ice maximum at record low for third straight year.