Sea Ice Level at the Antarctic and Arctic Sea Drop to a Record Low Since 1979

On 7th March, the Arctic Sea ice showed a record level low according to the scientists at Boulder, Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) which is supported by NASA. On the other side of the earth, on 3rd March, the Antarctic Sea ice hit the lowest ever recorded in the Southern area of the Hemisphere. The Arctic sea’s record low was due to unfavorable winds to ice expansion, series of storms and temperatures warmer than what is average.

On 13th February, the ice numbers for Antarctic and Arctic Sea were the lowest since 1979, when satellites started measuring sea ice continuously. The 16.21 million square kilometers of the polar sea ice lost around two million square kilometers, which is less than the global average minimum extent from 1981 to 2010. Where Arctic and global sea ice has moved downward consistently for more than 38 years, the Antarctic sea ice is more muddled.

Starting from the middle of March to middle of September, seas surrounding the Arctic Ocean and ice found floating on it shrinks according to a seasonal cycle. In winter and autumn, the temperature in the Arctic drops and the ice grows around the year until it reaches its extent in March. The ice sea in the Antarctic has a similar pattern but in different months. The ice grows in September and is found at a low in February. The Arctic sea was recorded at its maximum extent 5.57 million square miles below as compared to 455,600 square mile’s average from 1981 to 2010. Due to unfavorable winds to ice expansion, series of storms and temperatures warmer than what is average, the Arctic’s ice growth was halted.

A scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center headed by NASA in Greenbelt, Maryland, Walk Meier said that ice growth was slow in September. Since the water was already packing some heat, ice formation took time to start and it became hard for the ice cover to match it.

Since 1979, sea ice at the Arctic has dropped by 2.8% every ten years. This covers the maximum extent and if we talk about the minimum extent in the summertime, the loss is five times larger, which amounts to 13.5% every ten years. Besides shrinking degrees, the ice is also thinning. This is making its cap vulnerable to actions of winds, warmer temperatures and ocean waters.

On 3rd March, the Antarctic’s sea ice cover experienced an extremely low yearly minimum after decades of expansion in the sea ice. The sea ice low was recorded at 184,000 square kilometers, which was lower than 1997’s 2.11 million square kilometers.

According to Meier, this year, the maximum extent of sea ice might not lead to a low minimum extent due to ice melting but it will remain below normal. In 2016, the Antarctic sea ice experienced a maximum that came quite early but was followed by fast ice loss in early September. Starting from November, the Antarctic Sea ice has been continuously melting. However, in February the ice loss decreased. The record low measured this year comes after two years when sea ice extents were at record high in Antarctica. It took decades for the sea ice to grow at a moderate pace.

Goddard’s senior ice researcher on sea, Claire Parkinson said that 2016 experienced a lot of sea ice decrease as compared to the readings made in 2017. As the sea ice reaches a minimum in the Antarctic sea, there will be fewer changes and more to predict for the future. Though Meier believes that this might be global warming making its move on Antarctic, he further said that they would need several years of facts and figures to make sure that the trend is changing.