April 04, 2014

"The layer of ice that covers the Arctic Ocean has reached its maximum extent for the year."

Discovery News "After several months of expanding over the cold Arctic winter, it has now begun its spring retreat." by Kieran Mulvaney

'According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Arctic sea ice reached its seasonal maximum on March 21, after undergoing a brief surge mid-month. It topped out at 14.91 million square kilometers (5.76 million square miles), which is the fifth lowest winter maximum in the satellite record. The lowest maximum yet recorded is 14.63 million square kilometers, or 5.65 million square miles, in 2011.'

NEWS: Arctic Sea Ice Melt Season Getting Longer

'The loss of Arctic sea ice is a major concern for scientists because it provides essential habitat for species like polar bears and ringed seals and because its disappearance could alter the entire Arctic marine ecosystem by removing essential algae, which forms the basis of the food web.

'Ice also reflects sunlight. As it melts, sea ice is replaced by darker ocean, which absorbs that sunlight, creating further warming. And heat rising from a warmer Arctic Ocean may disrupt atmospheric circulation, prompting frigid winters such as that experienced by much of the northern and eastern United States recently.

'This year’s figure looked set to be much lower until surface winds helped to spread out the ice pack in the Barents Sea, where ice cover had been anomalously low all winter. Northeasterly winds also helped push the ice pack southward in the Bering Sea, another area where until the ice cover had until then been very low.'

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