Sea ice in the Antarctic is at its lowest level since records began while the Arctic is on track for another historic new low.
According to figures from the US National Snow & Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), sea ice in the Antarctic covered just 2.3 million square kilometres on 12 February – compared to the average between 1981 and 2010 of more than three million on that day.
The sea ice is likely to decrease further as it usually reaches the minimum level during the southern hemisphere’s summer in the last week of February.
Meanwhile in the Arctic, the sea ice is also tracking well below usual levels. It hits its maximum extent at the end of February or early March before the onset of spring starts to melt the ice.
This year could see the lowest maximum figure for Arctic sea ice on record. On 12 February, there were 13.9 million square kilometres of ice, compared to the 30-year average of 15.2 million and last year’s figure of 14.2 million.
Julienne Stroeve, of the NSIDC, told the Climate Central website: “This has been a most unusual winter.”
According to NSIDC, total sea ice cover worldwide was at a record low during January.
It reported that air temperatures were more than five degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 average over the northern Barents Sea in the Arctic and four degrees higher than the average in the East Siberian and northern Chukchi seas.
“It was also unusually warm over northwestern Canada. Cooler than average conditions (up to 3 degrees Celsius) prevailed over the northwest part of Russia and the northeast coast of Greenland,” the NSIDC said in a statement.
“According to the analysis of Nasa scientist Richard Cullather, the winter of 2015 to 2016 was the warmest ever recorded in the Arctic in the satellite data record.
“Whether the winter of 2016 to 2017 will end up warmer remains to be seen.”
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