As days continue to get longer and the spring equinox has come and gone, the ice that spans the sea of the Arctic Ocean at the top of the world has reached its winter maximum for the year and once again it sets another record. This winter saw its lowest amount in the satellite era. Below is a picture that shows the furthest the ice spread compared to average, which is the orange line.
Having dejavu? Well, you might be, but that's not the reason this subject sounds familiar. It's because we have watched sea ice dwindle nearly every year for the last decade so this isn't exactly a new phenomenon, nor is it likely a good sign. But there are a few things I want you to keep in mind. First, satellite records only date back to 1979 meaning we don't even have 40 years of reliable data. That's barely a blink of an eye when we compare it to how long man have roamed the early and less than a millisecond when compared to how old the Earth is, so it's not exactly an extensive record. Second, there isn't really a huge difference in the amount of sea ice from what is considered "average" to what we experienced over the winter. Check out the chart below…
The overall sea ice extent was about 14.5 million square kilometers, down a little over a million square kilometers from average. While that is a lot, it's only down about 9% from the average. Doesn't sound like much when putting it that way does it? Now yes, we know that even small events on the Earth can have big consequences and we aren't exactly going in the right direction, but let's not blow this out of proportion. Lastly, while the Arctic sea ice extent is shrinking, the Antarctic sea ice is growing. Antarctica just had its highest amount of sea ice ever recorded for the third straight Southern Hemisphere summer. Now, the gains at the South Pole don't out way the losses at the North Pole, but because of the Antarctic gains, we may not be losing ice as fast as it sounds.
Our planet goes through natural climatological cycles… some last weeks, others last months, and some even last centuries, so now the million dollar question is, is this a natural cycle of ice loss or is it human caused? Will it right itself in the coming years? Just something to think about….