Arctic Sea Ice Maximum At Record Low For Third Straight Year
Arctic sea ice appears reached its annual maximum extent on March 7, 2017, the lowest maximum in the 38-year satellite record. The area extended over 5.57 million square miles.
This year’s maximum extent is 471,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average maximum of 6.04 million square miles and 37,000 square miles below the previous lowest maximum that occurred on February 25, 2015. This year’s maximum is 39,000 square miles below the 2016 maximum, which is now third lowest.
This data is of interest to the shipping industry because of the possibility of using Arctic routes to and from Asia and the Americas. The use of northern routes would cut down on fuel use, costs, and time.
Air temperatures over the five months spanning October 2016 through February 2017 were more than 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit above average over the entire Arctic Ocean, and greater than 9 degrees Fahrenheit above average over large parts of the northern Chukchi and Barents seas. These overall warm conditions were punctuated by a series of extreme heat waves over the Arctic Ocean.
Data from a European Space Agency satellite indicate that this winter’s ice cover is slightly thinner compared to the past four years. An ice-ocean model at the University of Washington that incorporates observed weather conditions suggests the volume of ice in the Arctic is unusually low for this time of year.