The winter of 2015-2016 saw the ‘least most’ sea ice forming in the Arctic since record-keeping began, scientists said, indicating that an irreversible decline is now under way toward a seasonally ice-free northern ocean in as little as two decades.
Sea ice cover reached a maximum extent of 14.52 million square kilometres on March 24, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre. That was the lowest since record-keeping began in 1979, the Guardian reports. “I’ve never seen such a warm, crazy winter in the Arctic,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze. “The heat was relentless.”
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Extremely low minimum ice cover in the Arctic summer in recent years has exposed more dark open water to absorb heat from 24-hour sunlight. That heat tends to carry over into the fall, delaying freezing and limiting its extent. “Scientists now believe the Arctic is locked onto a course of continually shrinking sea ice,” the paper reports.
As a result, International Arctic Research Centre chief scientist Dr. John Walsh predicted: “Sometime in the 2030s or 2040s time frame, at least for a few days, you won’t have ice out there in the dead of summer.”
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