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Home* News and Stories → Lower extent of win­ter sea ice in the Arc­tic

Lower extent of win­ter sea ice in the Arc­tic

During this win­ter sea­son 2014/2015 the sea ice in the Arc­tic has exten­ded much less than it usual­ly did.

As the U.S. Natio­nal Snow and Ice Data Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Colo­ra­do reports, this win­ter the ice likely reached its maxi­mum extend as soon as Febru­a­ry 25th. This is 15 days ear­lier than the average of the years 1981 to 2010 which ser­ves as the refe­rence peri­od.

More alar­ming is the fact that the extent of sea ice on this date had not pro­cee­ded very far yet. Inde­ed, sin­ce the begin­ning of the satel­li­te record the maxi­mum extent of Arc­tic sea ice has never been as low as in this win­ter. On Febru­a­ry 25th the ice cove­r­ed an area of 14.54 mil­li­on squa­re kilo­me­ters. This is 1.1 mil­li­on squa­re kilo­me­ters less than the long term average and 130.000 squa­re kilo­me­ters less than the for­mer nega­ti­ve record of 2011. All are­as were affec­ted except for the Labra­dor Sea and the Davis Strait bet­ween Green­land and Cana­da. The­re was a remar­kab­ly low extent of ice on the Paci­fic side of the Arc­tic and in the Bar­ents Sea west of Nova­ya Sem­lya and sou­thwest of Spits­ber­gen.

After reaching its low maxi­mum on Febru­a­ry 25th the sea ice extent initi­al­ly decre­a­sed signi­fi­cant­ly (with regio­nal varia­ti­ons) and then incre­a­sed again in the second half of March. Howe­ver, a new maxi­mum could not be reached. Cur­r­ent­ly the ice is retrea­ting again, accord­ing to the time of the year.

It can be expec­ted that the low extent of sea ice in win­ter will also lead to less ice in the sum­mer sea­son. This sce­n­a­rio is sup­por­ted by the effect that open water sur­faces are absor­bing more solar ener­gy and are war­ming up fas­ter than ice sur­faces which reflect most of the sun­light (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news: Retre­at of Arc­tic sea ice acce­le­ra­tes glo­bal war­ming from Febru­a­ry 2014).

Sea ice in nort­hern Spits­ber­gen.

Sea ice in Spitsbergen

Source: Natio­nal Snow and Ice Data Cen­ter

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last modification: 2015-04-02 · copyright: Rolf Stange