Ice floes float in Baffin Bay between Canada and Greenland above the Arctic circle on July 10, 2008. In early February, the combined Arctic and Antarctic sea ice numbers were the lowest. The luxury cruise ship the Crystal Serenity is planning its second summer voyage through the Northwest Passage and the islands of the Canadian Arctic archipelago later this year, ferrying passengers on a month long journey between Alaska and NY.
Similarly, NSIDC researchers said that on March 3, "sea ice around Antarctica hit its lowest extent ever recorded by satellites at the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere".
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which partly funds the Snow and Ice Data Center, said Arctic temperatures this winter were the highest they'd been since 1900 when records began.
Sea ice extent is, very simply, a measurement of how much ocean water contains at least 15 percent sea ice (other organizations use different thresholds but 15 percent is the one used by NASA).
"We need to act now to lower our carbon emissions by improving energy efficiency, switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy and tackling climate change head on", he said.
This winter, a combination of warmer-than-average temperatures, winds unfavourable to ice expansion, and a series of storms halted sea ice growth in the Arctic.
The US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which also tracks sea ice, was due to announce its own findings for the winter maximum of ice later on Wednesday. Compared to last year's record low, ice covering the Arctic Ocean lost about 100,000 square kilometers.
That is 37,000 square miles below the previous record low in 2015.
The sea ice encompassed 14.4 million square kilometres at its largest. The sea ice maximum refers to the point at which sea ice is at its highest seasonal extent.
"Since November, daily Antarctic sea ice extent has continuously been at its lowest levels in the satellite record", said the United States space agency. Air temperatures across the Arctic have been 4.5F degrees above average between October 2016 and February 2017.
Sea ice in the Arctic affects wildlife such as polar bears, seals and walruses. But, if we don't soon see a slow-down, it's probably evidence that natural variability has less impact on sea ice than predicted in this new paper. That's an enormous area, but it's also the smallest winter maximum extent ever observed in records dating back to the year 1979.
"So we're starting the melt season in a deep hole right now", Serreze said. This means that sea ice and polar bears will ultimately disappear if we don't stop Carbon dioxide rise.
That was 71,000 square miles below the previous lowest minimum extent in the satellite record, which occurred in 1997, said NASA.