Arctic sea ice reaches lowest point on record

Arctic sea ice reaches lowest point on record
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The maximum size of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean this year was the smallest that it has ever been, officials said.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) declared Thursday that sea ice in the Arctic hit its biggest size of the season on Feb. 25.


At 5.61 million square miles, the sea ice covered the smallest maximum area since records began in 1979, beating out 2011’s record low. The size was about 7 percent smaller than the 30-year average.

Scientists, the federal government and the United Nations say that retreating sea ice is an expected result of a warming planet caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

While the NSIDC tracks the maximum winter ice, the United States’ most recent National Climate Assessment, released last year, predicted that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in the summer by the middle of the century.

The decline of sea ice threatens animal species that live in the Arctic, like polar bears. It also can affect the atmosphere, marine life and forests near the Arctic.

NSIDC scientists blamed the record low specifically on warm conditions on the Pacific side of the Arctic, a strongly positive Arctic Oscillation air circulation pattern of and low atmospheric pressure between Iceland and Greenland.

The center will release a more thorough analysis of this winter’s Arctic conditions in April, it said.