Arctic Sea Ice Set New Low in Early 2016, Center Reports

"The Arctic is in crisis. Year by year, it's slipping into a new state, and it's hard to see how that won't have an effect on weather throughout the Northern Hemisphere," said Ted Scambos, NSIDC's lead scientist.

Arctic sea ice was at a record low maximum extent early this year for the second consecutive year, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center and NASA (NSIDC). "I've never seen such a warm, crazy winter in the Arctic," said NSIDC Director Mark Serreze. "The heat was relentless."

The center is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder; its scientists analyze Arctic sea ice with partial support from NASA.

According to the NSIDC news release, air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean for the months of December, January, and February were 2 to 6 degrees Celsius (4 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit) above average in nearly every region, and sea ice's extent over the Arctic Ocean averaged 14.52 million square kilometers (5.607 million square miles) on March 24, beating last year's record low of 14.54 million square kilometers (5.612 million square miles) on Feb. 25. Unlike last year, the peak was later than average in the 37-year satellite record, setting up a shorter-than-average ice melt season for the coming spring and summer.

Ice extent increases through autumn and winter and the maximum typically occurs in mid-March. Sea ice retreats through spring and summer and shrinks to its smallest or minimum extent usually by mid-September; the September Arctic minimum began drawing attention in 2005 when it first shrank to a record low extent, and it set new low records again in 2007 and 2012. Last year's maximum extent was the lowest in the satellite record.

"The Arctic is in crisis. Year by year, it's slipping into a new state, and it's hard to see how that won't have an effect on weather throughout the Northern Hemisphere," said Ted Scambos, NSIDC's lead scientist. The center will release a full analysis of the winter season in early April, once monthly data are available for March.

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