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
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.'