Arctic sea ice extent below average for April
Extent still greater than record low in 2007
Arctic sea ice is well below its average reach for this time of year, according to the Colorado-based National Snow and Ice Data Center.
The report said that the sea ice retreat was rapid in the Arctic at the beginning of April. That led to problems with gold dredging operations and difficulties for seal hunters in the Bering Sea region, off Alaska’s west coast.
Sea ice extent reached 14.14 million square kilometres for April — that’s 610,000 square kilometers below the 1981 to 2010 average.
It’s also the fifth lowest April on record for ice extent.
The lowest sea ice extent for April happened in 2007. That record is 270,000 square kilometres less than the April 2014 data, a differential roughly the size of New Zealand.
“As of May 4, 2014, extent was below average in the Barents Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, and the Bering Sea, and slightly above average in Baffin Bay,” the report said.
The report blames low winter ice cover and an “unusually early breakup of sea ice.”
Gold dredging operations had to scramble to get their equipment off the sea ice in the Bering Sea, they said, based on reports from the Fairbanks Daily News Miner.
Some Alaskan seal hunters even had to desert their snowmobiles because of the fragile sea ice — although they picked the machines up later by boat.
The report also mentioned the impact of “melt ponds,” pools of melted snow which sit on top of the sea ice.
The ponds absorb the sun’s heat — which, as a result, cause further melting.
Recording the extent of melt ponds in May might help predict the sea ice extent in September, the report said.
On the other side of the hemisphere, Antarctica is still way above its average sea ice extent.
Antarctica has “the largest ice extent on record by a significant margin” for April, the report said. That continent is now approaching its winter.