The extent of this year's Arctic sea ice appears to have dropped 5,000 square miles below the record low set last year, at least in the history of satellite surveillance, according to NASA.
Arctic sea ice appeared to have reached its maximum extent for the year on March 24 at 5.607 million square miles, said researchers in a NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center news release,
which was well below the 1981-2010 average of 6.04 million square miles.
NASA said there still could be a late-season sea ice surge that could add to the 2016 total. In the past, the date of the maximum sea ice extent has varied from as early as February 24 in 1996 to April 2 in 2010.
"The Arctic is in crisis," Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the data center, said, according to USA Today
. "Year by year, it's slipping into a new state, and it's hard to see how that won't have an effect on weather throughout the Northern Hemisphere."
The data center said the below-average sea ice extent happened everywhere except in the Labrador Sea, Baffin Bay, and Hudson Bay.
The data center said warmer than average temperatures this winter contributed to the record low sea ice extent. The center said spots near the North Pole and from the Kara Sea towards Svalbard were 11 degrees above average.
Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said warmer sea water also played a role.
"It is likely that we're going to keep seeing smaller wintertime maximums in the future because in addition to a warmer atmosphere, the ocean has also warmed up," Meier said.
"That warmer ocean will not let the ice edge expand as far south as it used to. Although the maximum reach of the sea ice can vary a lot each year depending on winter weather conditions, we're seeing a significant downward trend, and that's ultimately related to the warming atmosphere and oceans."
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