Annual Arctic sea ice minimum in 2016 ties second lowest amount on record

NASA has been using satellites to record the minimum and maximum levels for sea ice in the Arctic Sea since 1978. The sea ice minimum and maximums are a gauge to see how global warming is affecting the Arctic. NASA has announced that the annual lowest extent of sea ice happened on September 10 and that sea ice extended for 1.60 million square miles on that date.

The minimum amount of sea ice in 2016 tied the amount of ice recorded back in 2007, which was the second lowest minimum sea ice amount on record. NASA says that its satellite and researchers have recorded a steep decline in average sea ice extent in the Arctic Sea every month of the year.

Sea ice in the Arctic Sea is important according to NASA because it helps regulate the temperature of the planet and influences the circulation of the atmosphere and ocean. The amount of ice also has a significant impact on the Arctic ecosystem. Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean shrinks every year in the spring and summer months as it moves to the yearly minimum extent. That ice forms again in the fall and winter months.

In June and July of 2016, low atmospheric pressure and cloudy skies slowed the ice melt, but large storms in the Arctic basin in August speed up ice melt in early September. "It's pretty remarkable that this year's sea ice minimum extent ended up the second lowest, after how the melt progressed in June and July," said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "June and July are usually key months for melt because that's when you have 24 hours a day of sunlight – and this year we lost melt momentum during those two months." NASA says that there hasn't been a record high sea ice in any month since 1986.