Arctic ice reaches lowest winter extent since records began

20 Mar 2015

Arctic ice has broken another record, but for the wrong reasons, now that its winter extent has shown its lowest amount since records began back in 1979.

Using satellites that orbit the Earth, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in the US was able to show that this year’s maximum sea ice was recorded at being 14.5m sq km reached on 25 February, but is now melting as we enter spring.

According to the BBC, the unwanted reading was most likely due to the unprecedented mild winters experience around the coasts of Alaska and Russia the previous record for the lowest amount of sea ice was reached during February 2011 when it reached out a further 130,000 sq km.

It is now a matter of recording the sea ice’s progress during the month of March when the data is compiled in April, but the possibility of another record being broken in early spring is not a guarantee.

Discussing the situation, NSIDC scientist Walt Meier said, “The amount of ice at the maximum is a function of not only the state of the climate but also ephemeral and often local weather conditions.

“The monthly value smoothes out these weather effects and so is a better reflection of climate effects.”

Likewise, Alexander Shestakov, director of the WWF Global Arctic Programme, said that unlike most records, this is not one to celebrate, “This is not a record to be proud of. Low sea ice can create a series of reactions that further threaten the Arctic and the rest of the globe.”

Arctice ice image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic