Constant warmth punctuated by repeated winter heat waves stymied Arctic sea ice growth this winter, leaving the winter sea ice cover missing an area the size of California and Texas combined and setting a record-low maximum for the third year in a row.
Even in the context of the decades of greenhouse gas-driven warming, and subsequent ice loss in the Arctic, this winter’s weather stood out.
“I have been looking at Arctic weather patterns for 35 years and have never seen anything close to what we’ve experienced these past two winters,” Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which keeps track of sea ice levels, said in a statement.
The sea ice fringing Antarctica also set a record low for its annual summer minimum (with the seasons opposite in the Southern Hemisphere), though this was in sharp contrast to the record highs racked up in recent years. Researchers are still investigating what forces, including global warming, are driving Antarctic sea ice trends.