May Arctic Ice Extent Hits Record Low

Arctic ice

In May, Arctic ice percentage reached the lowest level in years.

A new report shows that Arctic ice had reached its lowest surface in May this year. When compared with the lowest recorded levels, May’s level arrives at the fourth place. And because summer will be coming and temperatures will rise, scientists predict that this year the ice extent will reach a record low.

Researchers calculate what they call “ice extent” by taking into consideration all surface of the ocean that is covered with at least 15% of ice.

When compared with the last few years, the ice extent in the first months of 2016 is the lowest. The ice surface recorded in the last four years was below decade’s average.

The average ice extent in the past thirty years had varied between 15 millions of square kilometers in winter and 11 millions of square kilometers at the beginning of summer. This year, the 11 million square kilometers low was already reached by the end of May.

“Daily extents in May were also two to four weeks ahead of levels seen in 2012, which had the lowest September extent in the satellite record. The monthly average extent for May 2016 is more than one million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) below that observed in May 2012,” said representatives of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

An image from Beaufort Sea taken by NASA shows a large black surface of water breaking into what should have been the ocean’s ice cover.

Experts say that there shouldn’t be that much open water near the glaciers. As for the glaciers, they are melting too. Glaciers are made out of multiyear ice, ice that doesn’t melt over the summer. They represent the core of Arctic ice surface.

However, year after year, pieces of ice break from the glaciers and expose them to melting. When spring comes, the ice that disperses the quickest is the first-year ice that was formed during the winter, and the glaciers are exposed again.

Scientists that have monitored the area say that the temperatures in the North Pole are rising faster than anywhere on the planet.

In May, the Arctic temperatures were 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit above the average. In some Arctic areas, the temperatures were even higher.

One extreme event that might have influenced this year’s low ice surface was El Niño. In December, the band of ocean warm water brought above freezing temperatures to the North Pole.

Image Source: Pixabay

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