Sea ice extent in both the poles sink to record low, this year

On March 7, 2017, Arctic sea ice hit a record low wintertime maximum extent in 2017. Source : NASA

Global warming is a serious threat. Several incidents in 2017 make it evident that the rising global temperature has serious affects on the environment.

NASA has recently reported that the sea ice in both the poles have decreased. In the north pole, the Arctic sea ice appears to have reached a record low wintertime maximum extent. And in the south pole of the planet, sea ice around Antarctica hit its lowest extent ever recorded. Both these records were in the same week of early March.

Operation IceBridge, NASA’a aerial survey of polar ice, flies over a lead, or opening in the sea ice cover, near the Alaskan coast on March 11, 2017.
Source : NASA

This event surprises the climate scientists as it is occurring after decades of moderate sea ice expansion. In early February, the combined Arctic and Antarctic sea ice numbers were the lowest. The total polar sea ice covered was less than the average global minimum extent. Sea ice covering an area of about 2 million square kilometers which is equivalent to an area larger than Mexico has been lost.

The sea ice, generally, reaches maximum and minimum in September and March respectively in Arctic circle. The calendar flips for Antarctic region. This winter, several factors affected the sea ice growth. The factors include, a series of storms, winds unfavorable to ice expansion and the warmer-than-average temperatures.

This year’s maximum extent at the Arctic, reached on March 7 at 14.42 million square kilometers, and is 97,00 square kilometers below the previous record low. In Antarctica, this year’s record low annual sea ice minimum of 815,000 square miles is 71,000 square miles below the previous lowest minimum extent in the satellite record.

These line graphs plot monthly deviations and overall trends in polar sea ice from 1979 to 2017 as measured by satellites.
Source: NASA

Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist said, “We started from a low September minimum extent”. He also said, “There was a lot of open ocean water and we saw periods of very slow ice growth in late October and into November, because the water had a lot of accumulated heat that had to be dissipated before ice could grow”.

Claire Parkinson, a senior sea ice researcher said, “Last year was stunningly different, with prominent sea ice decreases in the Antarctic. To think that now the Antarctic sea ice extent is actually reaching a record minimum, that’s definitely of interest”.