As the Arctic winter begins to recede, the region’s sea⁣ ice cover likely reached its maximum extent for‍ the year on March 14. While the maximum spread​ of the ice was‌ not​ as minimal⁤ as it has been in some recent years,⁤ it was still 247,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average, according to the arctic latest analysis from the ‍National Snow and‌ Ice Data Center (NSIDC). This ‘missing’ ice is nearly as large as​ Texas.

The ⁤NSIDC data indicates that the maximum extent of the ice was the fourteenth lowest in⁣ the satellite record, which dates back ⁢to ⁣1979. However, this ⁢doesn’t tell the ​entire story. The volume of Arctic sea ice, which has seen a significant decline, provides ‌a different perspective. This winter, the thinner, less voluminous ice was able to cover more territory than in ⁤some previous years.

Arctic Sea Ice Volume

The total Arctic sea ice volume averaged⁣ the third lowest on record for the month of February. As spring progresses and temperatures rise, Arctic sea ​ice will begin ‌to shrink. In ⁢September, it will reach its lowest ⁢extent of the year and start to grow ‌again. ⁣Last September, it bottomed out as sixth lowest in the nearly 45-year‌ satellite record.

Long-Term ​Declines in All Months

Due to human-induced global warming, both ⁢the maximum and minimum extents of sea ice⁤ in the Arctic have been trending downward overall. The sharpest declines have occurred in the summer and fall, including the time of year when sea ice reaches its annual minimum in ‌September. NSIDC’s Michon Scott notes that​ although ⁢Arctic ‍sea ice extent has not declined as much during winter months, it has still shown a steadily decreasing trend. Arctic sea ice extent now exhibits long-term⁤ declines in all months, including the coldest, darkest months of the year.

However, natural variability in the climate system ​has⁢ not been repealed by human activity. Therefore, the trend lines showing the shrinking of Arctic sea ice do not point straight downward. They fluctuate⁢ slightly. ⁢Some years have seen less severe declines than⁤ others, as is evident in the graph above depicting the⁣ trend in Arctic sea ‌ice extent during the month of February from 1979 ‌through 2024.

Comparison of Arctic Sea Ice Extent

A comparison of the extent of Arctic sea ice in March of 1979 and 2024 shows a dramatic decline.⁢ This animation cuts through the year-to-year variability⁤ and​ illustrates just how much‌ ice has disappeared. While⁤ most of the Arctic is still covered in sea ice ⁤during the dead of winter, an area the size of Alaska that was ​once frozen over is now ice-free.