Low Arctic sea ice extent for March caps a highly unusual winter in the Arctic, says the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC).
In March, Arctic sea ice extent fell to its second lowest extent since 1981 — as did the overall Arctic sea ice extent for 2106.
The decline of Arctic sea ice is already setting records in 2016, with the winter peak in March clocking in as the lowest since satellite records began, scientists say.
Low Arctic sea ice extent for March caps a highly unusual winter in the Arctic, characterized by persistent warmth in the atmosphere that helped to limit ice growth.
Above-average influx of ocean heat from the Atlantic and southerly winds helped to keep ice extent especially low in the Barents and Kara seas. Northern Hemisphere snow cover for both February and March was also unusually low.
"Sea ice extent reached its seasonal maximum on March 24 of 14.52 million square kilometers (5.607 million square miles), barely beating out February 25, 2015 for the lowest seasonal maximum in the satellite record. Arctic sea ice extent averaged for the entire month of March 2016 was 14.43 million square kilometers (5.57 million square miles), the second lowest in the satellite record," says NSIDC.