Maximum size for Arctic sea ice hits a new low

visualization of sea ice maximum for 2016

The maximum extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new low on March 24. The orange line traces the 30-year average sea ice extent for the month of March.

C. Starr/NASA Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

The ice at the top of the world has set a new wintertime low for the second straight year, scientists at NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced March 28.

On March 24, Arctic sea ice grew to its largest extent for the year, reaching only a paltry 14.52 million square kilometers, slightly less than the 14.54 million square kilometers observed last year. That’s 1.12 million square kilometers smaller than the 1981 to 2010 average, a size difference that’s bigger than California and Texas combined.

The new low resulted largely from unusually warm temperatures in the region, which were as high as six degrees Celsius above average in the region stretching from the North Pole toward northern Greenland, the scientists reported. The disappearing Arctic sea ice can accelerate warming, allow isolated ecological communities to mix and spread pollution.

Warming temperatures helped stunt the Arctic sea ice extent to its smallest maximum extent on record. NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

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