Arctic sea ice this year is the smallest in winter since satellite records began in 1979, in a new sign of long-term climate change, U.S. data showed.
The ice floating on the Arctic Ocean around the North Pole reached its maximum annual extent of just 14.54 million square kms on Feb. 25 – slightly bigger than Canada – and is now expected to shrink with a spring thaw. The ice was 1.1 million sq kms smaller than the 1981-2010 average, and below the previous lowest maximum in 2011. With the return of the sun to the Arctic after months of winter darkness, the ice shrinks to a minimum in September.
The U.N. panel of climate scientists links the long-term shrinkage of the ice, by 3.8 percent a decade since 1979, to global warming and says Arctic summertime sea ice could vanish in the second half of the century.
The U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization says 2014 was the warmest year since records began in the 19th century. Almost 200 nations have agreed to work out a deal in December in Paris to slow global warming.