With winter ending in the Northern Hemisphere and summer ending in the Southern Hemisphere, NASA scientists have analyzed satellite data to see how much sea ice is present in the Arctic and Antarctic. The results show record low levels at both poles.
In the Arctic, sea ice expands during the winter time. The sea ice reached its maximum annual extent on March 7th with 5.57 million square miles of ocean covered by ice. This is the smallest winter maximum since records began in 1979, breaking the previous record low maximum set in 2015 by 37,000 square miles.
In the Antarctic, sea ice melts during the summer (winter in the Northern Hemisphere). The sea ice reached its minimum annual extent on March 3rd with 815,000 square miles of ocean covered by ice. This is the smallest amount of ice ever to be measured in this region, breaking the old record set in 1997 by 71,000 square miles. This is a significant change, as sea ice had been steadily increasing in the Antarctic until just the last couple of years.
When the two areas are combined, the lowest level of sea ice ever recorded on the planet occurred on February 13th at just 6.26 million square miles. This is 790,000 square miles less than the average global minimum extent; an area larger than Mexico.
The record low levels of ice are believed to have been caused by a general trend of warming temperatures across the planet. Unfavorable winds for sea ice formation and more Arctic storms, which vary on a yearly basis, are believed to have contributed as well.
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