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Arctic sea ice hits record wintertime low

image of Arctic sea ice on March 7, 2017

This year's maximum extent of Arctic sea ice, reached March 7 (shown), is the smallest peak extent ever seen.

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Arctic sea ice has hit a record low for the third year in a row. It’s the paltriest maximum extent seen since recordkeeping began in 1979, scientists at NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced March 22.

Total sea ice cover on the Arctic Ocean peaked on March 7, satellite observations show, reaching a total area of 14.42 million square kilometers. That’s around 100,000 square kilometers smaller than the previous record, a statistical tie between 2015 and 2016, and 1.22 million square kilometers smaller than the 1981 to 2010 average.

Unusually warm autumn and winter temperatures, including a series of extreme winter heat waves, are largely responsible for capping the Arctic sea ice extent this year, the scientists propose. Satellite observations also showed that this winter’s ice cover is slightly thinner than in recent years. Together, the meager maximum extent and thin ice could spell trouble for this year’s minimum sea ice extent, expected during September.

Shrinking Arctic ice could hasten warming, spread pollution, allow previously isolated species to mingle and open new shipping routes.

graph of Arctic sea ice extent

Animals,, Ecology

Tool use in sea otters doesn't run in the family

By Helen Thompson 8:44pm, March 21, 2017
A genetic study suggests that tool-use behavior isn’t hereditary in sea otters, and that only some animals need to use tools due to the type of food available in their ecosystem.
Particle Physics

Large Hadron Collider experiment nabs five new particles

By Emily Conover 3:25pm, March 21, 2017
LHCb experiment detects new particles composed of two strange quarks and one charm quark.
Animals,, Science & Society

Tropical bedbugs outclimb common bedbugs

By Helen Thompson 6:03pm, March 15, 2017
A study of bedbug traps and feet names finds that tropical bedbugs are much better at scaling slippery walls than common bedbugs.

In new Cassini portraits, Saturn’s moon Pan looks like pasta

By Helen Thompson 5:30pm, March 10, 2017
Photographs taken this week by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft provide a closer view of Saturn’s small moon Pan, which resembles ravioli.
Archaeology,, Microbiology,, Evolution

Ancient dental plaque tells tales of Neandertal diet and disease

By Helen Thompson 1:22pm, March 8, 2017
Researchers have reconstructed the diet and disease history of ancient Neandertals.
Particle Physics,, Astronomy

Rare triplet of high-energy neutrinos detected from an unknown source

By Emily Conover 1:20pm, March 3, 2017
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory spotted three neutrinos within 100 seconds that seem to have come from the same place in the sky.

Certain birth defects are on the rise since Zika arrived in the U.S.

By Laurel Hamers 5:36pm, March 2, 2017
The rate of certain birth defects is much higher in babies born to Zika-infected mothers in the United States, the CDC reports.
Planetary Science,, Oceans

Saturn’s ‘Death Star’ moon may not conceal an ocean after all

By Thomas Sumner 2:07pm, February 28, 2017
A lack of cracks on Mimas suggests that the icy moon of Saturn doesn’t conceal a subsurface ocean of liquid water.
Planetary Science,, Astronomy

Juno spacecraft won’t go into shorter orbit around Jupiter

By Ashley Yeager 4:02pm, February 17, 2017
Juno will remain in its 53-day orbit around Jupiter due to an issue with two helium check valves, NASA reports.
Climate,, Oceans,, Earth

Antarctic sea ice shrinks to record low

By Thomas Sumner 1:14pm, February 17, 2017
The Antarctic sea ice extent has reached a new low just two years after hitting a record high.
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