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    Global climate change

    Record low sea ice extent in both hemispheres for 2016

    By Brett Anderson, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
    1/13/2017, 8:59:53 AM

    In terms of global sea ice extent, 2016 will be noted for the number of monthly low record extents that were set in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

    The graphs below show the sea ice extent for selected years. The dashed line in the Arctic graph (top) is the plot of the record low year of 2012. The dashed line in the Antarctic graph (second image below) is the plot of the record high year of 2013.

    In the Arctic, record low monthly extents were set in January, February, April, May, June, October and November.

    In the Antarctic, record low monthly extents were set during November and December of 2016.


    For the Arctic region, 2016 tied 2007 for the second lowest sea ice extent minimum on record. Records go back to 1979. Again, the record lowest sea ice extent minimum was set in the September of 2012.

    The experts at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) state that the summer of 2016 was unusually stormy in the Arctic and that may be the reason that 2016 did not end up lower than 2012 for sea ice extent. When it is stormy, sea ice tends to spread out and the increase in cloudiness tends to favor cooler conditions in the Arctic summer compared to normal.

    For the Antarctic region, sea ice extent was near normal for the first half of 2016, according to the NSIDC. However, sea ice extent then trended below normal for the second half of the year with record low extents toward the end of 2016. Changing wind patterns were at least partly responsible for the unusually low extents later in the year.

    The NSIDC graph below shows the 2016 global (Arctic and Antarctic combined) sea ice extent compared to the 1981-2010 climatological mean.

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

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    Global climate change