By Brian Kahn
April 11, 2017
Climate change continues its rapid reshaping of the Arctic as yet another month saw sea ice set a record-low mark.
March data just released by the National Snow and Ice Data Center marks six months in a row of near-record or record-low sea ice for the region. It’s a story that’s been reported so often recently, it risks feeling almost normal. But make no mistake. There has never been a run like this in nearly 40 years of satellite data.
Sea ice was missing from a 452,000-square-mile area it usually covers in March. That’s an area roughly the size of Sweden. Warm weather was yet again a major culprit in the case of the missing ice.
Temperatures were up to 13°F above normal along Russia’s coastal seas. Incidentally, those areas — particularly the Barents Sea and Sea of Okhotsk — were home to some of the largest sea ice anomalies.
Sea ice thickness is an even more important indicator for the melt season, which is underway after setting a record-low peak in early March (for the third year running, no less).
Just as extent has set a record low in March, so too has thickness, according to data from the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center. NSIDC also reported that ice thinner than 6 feet “covers a much larger region and extends much farther north than it used to — well north of 80°N latitude on the Atlantic side of the Arctic.”
Thin — and generally younger — sea ice is more susceptible to melt than its older, thicker counterpart. Yet young, thin ice is making up an increasingly large portion of Arctic ice pack as climate change whittles away at stores of old ice.