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End-of-the-year global sea ice update

January 09, 2019; 12:37 PM

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has released their December 2018 sea ice data.

Sea ice extent in the Antarctic region was the lowest on record for December, records go back to 1979.

In the Arctic, sea ice extent was the 4th lowest on record for December. Image courtesy the NSIDC.

Another key figure is the fact that old, thick ice (ice that is greater than 4 years old) now covers only 5 percent of it it did back in the 1980s. Younger, thinner ice (which is currently much more widespread than older ice) is much more likely to completely melt off during the summer months.

Video courtesy NASA Goddard and YouTube.

Key excerpt from the NSIDC report......

Today's departures from average conditions are quite remarkable when viewed over the last 160+ years (see image below). While some lower-than-average (computed 1981 to 2010) winter and summer sea ice conditions occurred prior to the satellite data record, they were not as large in magnitude or as persistent as recent departures have been. Further, recent years have shown unusually low sea ice extent persisting well into autumn and winter, reflecting a distinct change in seasonality in the Arctic compared to earlier years with low summer ice conditions.

This NSIDC graphic below shows departures from average sea ice extent in the Arctic Ocean relative to 1981 to 2010 from 1850 to 2018. Above-average extent is shown by red and orange colors, while below average extent is shown in blue colors.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com



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