A new report from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center finds that sea ice extent in both the Arctic and Antarctica reached its lowest point since satellites began continuously measuring it in 1979 - and for the third straight year.
The peak Arctic sea ice extent this winter is considerably lower than in either 2015 or 2016, both of which were also extremely low years and vied for the prior record. Shrinking sea ice levels mean more sunlight hits the ocean instead, which increases sea temperatures and causes more sea ice to melt in a self-perpetuating cycle.
In 2015, the maximum surface area was 14.51 million km and in 2016 14.52 million km.
That is fractionally smaller than the previous winter low of 14.58 million square kilometers set a year ago in satellite records dating back to the 1970s, it said.
A very warm autumn and winter contributed to the record low maximum, according to NSIDC scientists, with air temperatures 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit above average over the Arctic Ocean. NSIDC scientists provide Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis content, with partial support from NASA.
The sea ice, generally, reaches maximum and minimum in September and March respectively in Arctic circle.
Scientists have found that the Arctic sea ice is at a record annual low, continuing down a worrying trend.
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That was 71,000 square miles below the previous lowest minimum extent in the satellite record, which occurred in 1997, said NASA. It's harder to measure the thickness and overall volume, but data from the University of Washington show that as of late last month ice volume levels were down 42 percent from 1979, said polar science center chief Axel Schweiger.
Arctic sea ice was also thinner this winter than in the past four years, according to data from the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellite. Combined, Arctic sea ice loss, and Antarctic sea ice loss this year is equivalent to the size of Mexico.
"Last year was stunningly different, with prominent sea ice decreases in the Antarctic".
This record low has some scientists puzzled, as it comes just two years after a series of monthly record highs for the extent of sea ice.
"It is tempting to say that the record low we are seeing this year is global warming finally catching up with Antarctica", said Meier. "However, this might just be an extreme case of pushing the envelope of year-to-year variability". Now, more than ever, we need to write and call our elected representatives and tell them we do care about our children's future, and we want to stay the course on meaningful climate action-for polar bears and for all of us.
Ice floes float in Baffin Bay between Canada and Greenland above the Arctic circle on July 10, 2008.