Feb 13, 2017

Sea Ice Hits Record Lows at Both Poles

Arctic
by
Andrea Thompson
,
WxShift
degrees latitude for 2017 (red), compared to 2016 (yellow), and the long-term average (blue). Image: Zack Labe/Danish Meteorological Institute
degrees latitude for 2017 (red), compared to 2016 (yellow), and the long-term average (blue). Image: Zack Labe/Danish Meteorological Institute

Arctic temperatures have finally started to cool off after yet another winter heat wave stunted sea ice growth over the weekend. The repeated bouts of warm weather this season have stunned even seasoned polar researchers, and could push the Arctic to a record low winter peak for the third year in a row.

Meanwhile, Antarctic sea ice set an all-time record low on Monday in a dramatic reversal from the record highs of recent years.

Sea ice at both poles has been expected to decline as the planet heats up from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. That trend is clear in the Arctic, where summer sea ice now covers half the area it did in the early 1970s. Sea ice levels in Antarctica are much more variable, though, and scientists are still unraveling the processes that affect it from year to year.