SCIENCE

Arctic Sea Ice Levels Hit New Low For Second Year Running

  • Mary Nichols , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Mar, 30, 2016, 05:48 AM
Arctic Sea Ice
(Photo : Getty Images/Dominique Faget) The Arctic Ocean is producing much less snow than in previous years -- a problem that could adversely affect the Northern Hemisphere.

The Arctic Ocean is producing much less snow than in previous years -- a problem that could adversely affect the Northern Hemisphere, according to researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

According to research from the Center, a part of the University of Colorado at Boulder, the spread of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low - beating out last year's record low of 5.607 million square miles, writes CNN.

The data, which was based on satellite observations, showed that this year's sea ice spread was 431,000 square miles less than the winter averages that occurred between 1981 and 2010, the center said.

"The Arctic is in crisis. Year by year, it's slipping into a new state, and it's hard to see how that won't have an effect on weather throughout the Northern Hemisphere," Ted Scambos, a lead scientist at the center, said in a statement.

Arctic sea ice plays an important role in cooling the Earth as it reflects heat from the sun away from the planet's surface. Reduced rates of sea ice leads to higher temperatures in the Arctic as well as more heat produced by the ocean. These factors can affect weather patterns around the globe as hotter conditions interrupt the natural flow of the jet stream - a wind current that carries weather patterns eastward across the globe.

Disruptions to the jet stream can halt the development of weather systems, causing temperatures to reach extreme levels in some cases, researchers say.

According to scientists, the changing climate and the resulting hotter temperatures has lead to increases in Arctic sea ice loss, which averages about 20,800 square miles a year since records began in 1970s.

The latest winter has been warmer than average, with air temperatures reaching as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal close to the boundaries of the ice pack, Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a press release.

The snow and ice center also blamed unusual winds from the south and the inflow of warm waters originating in the Atlantic for lower sea ice levels this year.

However, the researchers also suggest that lower levels of winter sea ice may not necessarily mean that record lows will occur during the coming summer months.

Summer ice levels are largely dependent on when melting begins in the upper Arctic, according to researchers. But the most recent warmer winter does suggest that ice and snow cover is thinner than usual and could produce more ice melt.

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