(From Alaska Dispatch News / by Yereth Rosen)– Peak winter extent was reached on Feb. 25, with 5.61 million square miles of Arctic waters having at least 15 percent ice coverage, the center said.
That maximum was about 7 percent smaller than the average winter maximum of 6.04 million square miles recorded from 1981 to 2010, the center said.
The ice coverage peak — and start of the melt season — was also one of the earliest on record, 15 days earlier than the 1981-2010 average date of peak coverage, the center said.
The melt season now underway is starting out in “a deep hole,” Mark Serreze , director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said in an email.
While ice extent at the end of this year’s melt season will depend a lot of summer weather patterns, “we’ve set the stage for another extreme minimum,” he said. “Will there be a new record low at the end of the coming melt season? While we’ll have to wait and see; we’ve raised the odds of this happening.”
Through this winter, sea ice extent has been below average almost everywhere in the Arctic but particularly in waters off Alaska and eastern Siberia, the center said. That was thanks in large part to warm conditions brought to the Pacific by an unusual pattern in the jet stream, the center said.
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