Mar 14, 2015 05:11 PM EDT
While much of the northeastern and central United States froze to death this snowy winter, the cold chill didn't extend to the north as scientists have discovered that the winter ice levels are at record lows.
According to Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, a large portion of the Arctic region had warmer than normal temperatures this winter even if no one would claim the weather there is mild.
Some areas of the Arctic reach temperatures that were 7 to 11 degrees above average in February. The average temperatures during the winter in the region are approximately minus 22 to minus 31.
Sea ice is ocean water that is frozen during the winter and melts each summer. During the melt, the ice levels typically reach their lowest in September while hitting their highest marks in March.
This year the ice measures approximately 600,000 square miles. These most recent measurements show that the sea ice levels are far below historic levels from 1981-2010.
"If the current pattern of below-average extent continues, Arctic sea ice extent may set a new lowest winter maximum," the Snow and Ice Data Centre reported earlier this month. The records date back to the late 1970s when they began tracking the amount of sea ice. The previous record low for March was in 2011.
So why is sea ice important? Because it affects both wildlife and people that live in the Arctic. Sea ice can also influence weather here in the U.S. as well. Some researchers believe the warm Arctic may actually play a role in the sometimes crazy and extreme weather such as the cold in the east and the warmth in the west that we have experienced over the past few winters.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the amount of sea ice found in the Arctic has been steadily declining over the past few decades due mainly to man-made global warming.
Across the globe, the Antarctic sea ice has actually grown in recent years, but the overall amount of sea ice from both Antarctica and the Arctic has declined. Essentially, climate change is happening twice as fast in the Arctic when compared to the rest of the planet.
This year, the warmth has even been felt as far south as Alaska, where the famous Iditarod sled dog race has to be rerouted because the unusually warm temperatures caused a lack of snow in the areas of the race.
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