(Bloomberg) – The extent of sea ice over the Arctic Ocean grew until the last day of March, the latest the annual melting season has begun in 31 years of satellite records, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center said.
Cold weather and winds from the north over the Bering Sea and Barents Sea meant that the area of ocean covered by ice expanded through last month, the Boulder, Colorado-based center said today in a statement on its Web site. That’s two days later than in 1999, the previous latest start to a melting season since satellite monitoring began in 1979.
Scientists have highlighted declining Arctic sea ice as an indicator of global warming. The NSIDC has said the Arctic Ocean could be largely ice-free during the summer by 2030. While this year’s melting season has started late, it probably won’t have an impact on the extent of ice in the summer, the group said.
“The ice that formed late in the season is thin and will melt quickly when temperatures rise,” the NSIDC said.
The peak ice extent of 15.25 million square kilometers (5.89 million square miles) “approached” the average for the years 1979 to 2000. It was 670,000 square kilometers more than the record low ice peak of 2006, the center said.
Melting started in March then reversed during a cold snap, prolonging the annual freeze.
In September, the researchers said Arctic sea ice shrank in 2009 to its third-lowest summer minimum on record, remaining “well outside the range of natural variability.”