Every year, the cap of frozen seawater floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and its neighboring seas melts during the spring and summer and grows back in the fall and winter months, reaching its maximum yearly extent between February and April. On March 24, Arctic sea ice extent peaked at 5.607 million square miles, a new record low winter maximum extent in the satellite record that started in 1979. It is slightly smaller than the previous record low maximum extent of 5.612 million square miles that occurred last year. The 13 smallest maximum extents on the satellite record have happened in the last 13 years… Arctic sea ice plays an important role in maintaining Earth’s temperature-its bright white surface reflects solar energy that the ocean would otherwise absorb. But this effect is more relevant in the summer, when the sun is high in the sky in the Arctic, than in the winter, when the sun doesn’t rise for months within the Arctic Circle. In the winter, the impact of missing sea ice is mostly felt in the atmosphere, said Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
/ / / 2016 Arctic Sea Ice Wintertime Extent Hits Another Record Low