Arctic and Antarctic Ice Extents Decline In January 2016

Arctic and Antarctic Ice Extents Decline In January 2016

January 2016 proved to be the lowest every January for the Arctic sea ice shelves due to the region being surrounded with warm temperatures, while the cold air managed to rise up to mid-latitudes owing to low air pressure. Arctic sea ice coverage was 5.2 million square miles (13.53 million square kilometers) on an average in the month of January 2016. The figure is 402,000 square miles (1.04 million square kilometers) less than the average coverage for this month from 1981 to 2010.

The earlier record low for the month was recorded during 2011, which had an ice extent 35,000 square miles (90,000 square kilometers) more than that recorded in January 2016. The record low of January this year has been attributed to abnormally less area being covered by ice in the Barents Sea and Kara Sea, along with the East Greenland Sea located on the Atlantic side. It was also driven by the Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk witnessing lower than average situation.

The Arctic Oscillation’s movement was the primary reason behind the 13 degrees F (6 degrees C) higher January temperatures in most of the Arctic Ocean. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the first three weeks of January experienced the Arctic Oscillation penetrating an extreme negative phase. It has been observed by NSIDC that with every passing decade, the average ice coverage in the Arctic is decreasing by 3.2%, after taking into account the extreme fluctuations caused by natural phenomenon.


Meanwhile, the sea ice shelves of Antarctic also went below the average coverage in January 2016 as compared to the usually recorded level during this month. The decrease comes just a year after the ice coverage achieved record high levels. However, the decline in Antarctic sea ice extent is much less than that witnessed in the Arctic region, though the ocean surrounding Antarctic is warming up.

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