By the Blouin News Science & Health staff

Arctic sea ice reaches smallest-ever winter extent

by in Environment.

An iceberg off of Greenland. (Source: Robert Young/flickr)

An iceberg off of Greenland. (Source: Robert Young/flickr)

On Monday scientists from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that the maximum extent of Arctic sea ice set a new low for the second year in a row. reported:

On March 24, Arctic sea ice grew to its largest extent for the year, reaching only a paltry 14.52 million square kilometers [5.607 million square miles], slightly less than the 14.54 million square kilometers observed last year. That’s 1.12 million square kilometers smaller than the 1981 to 2010 average, a size difference that’s bigger than California and Texas combined.

Although the past few years have set many new warmest-ever records, already 2016 is proving to be even more impactful. Temperatures at the North Pole rose above freezing around New Years — more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the typical baseline. Taking all of January and February, the Arctic experienced temperatures that averaged nearly 11 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

Melting Arctic sea ice accelerates climate change in a positive-feedback loop, because dark ocean water absorbs more sunlight than bright ice. The vanishing ice also exposes isolated ecological communities to new risks and spreads pollution.

The effects of climate change are here already, and getting worse. The steady stream of dire climate news (for example, last week Blouin News reported on coral bleaching and ocean acidification as a result of higher temperatures) should give further urgency to global mitigation efforts. There are some revolutionary but proven remedies, like removing CO2 from the atmosphere, as Blouin News featured after last year’s Blouin Creative Leadership Summit and its panels on climate change and global sustainability.

Be sure to check out our continued coverage of climate change on Blouin News.