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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