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Arctic Sea Ice Hits Record Monthly Low for 7th Time in 2016


Average concentration of Arctic sea ice for November 2016. Opaque white areas indicate the greatest concentration, and dark blue areas are open water. The yellow line shows the median extent from 1981 to 2010, and gives an idea of how conditions this November strayed from the norm. Image via NASA

Though this is when the Arctic is supposed to be refreezing, scientists say sea ice there hit record low levels for November. In the crucial Barents Sea, the amount of floating ice decreased when it would be expected to grow.

Arctic sea ice extended for 3.5 million square miles (9.1 million square kilometers). That's 309,000 square miles (800,000 square kilometers) below the record set in 2006 — a difference larger than state of Texas. The National Snow and Ice Data Center says it was the seventh month this year to set a record low.

"There's crazy stuff going on up there. It's bad," said Rutgers University marine scientist Jennifer Francis.

The data center calculated that ice in the Barents Sea, just outside Norway, shrank by 19,300 square miles (50,000 square kilometers) during what is supposed to be a cold month, but wasn't. That area is important because recent research links sea ice there to changes in extreme weather in lower latitudes, though scientists have not come to a consensus on that link yet.

"Almost certainly there will be unusual weather events this winter," Francis said.

The sea ice reached levels not seen since satellites started to monitor the region in 1979. Some Arctic air was 18 degrees warmer (10 degrees Celsius) than normal and seawater was 7 degrees (4 degrees Celsius) above normal, preventing sea ice from forming. Data center scientist Julienne Stroeve blamed natural weather patterns and man-made global warming.

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