March’s Arctic ice extent lowest on record for the month

Monthly March ice extent for 1979 to 2015 shows a decline of 2.6% per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 average.

The Arctic sea ice extent in March was the lowest for that month since satellite records began nearly 40 years ago.


Following a record-low ice extent in n late February, Arctic sea ice extent wavered for a bit but stayed low. That resulted in the lowest average sea ice extent on record for March, at 14.39 million square kilometers, according to the latest monthly update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The change in total Arctic sea ice extent for March is typically quite small. It tends to increase slightly during the first part of the month, reach the seasonal maximum, and then decline over the remainder of the month. This year the maximum was hit already on February 25. Then the ice covered 14.54 million square kilometers – the lowest maximum extent ever recorded.

Despite a late-season ice growth in mid-March in the Bering Sea, Davis Strait and around Labrador, the average ice extent stayed low.  

It is not only the ice extent – defined as areas with at least 15 percent ice cover – that is diminishing, but also the thickness of the ice. A study referred by BarentsObserver in March, shows that the ice in the central Arctic Ocean thinned 65 percent between 1975 and 2012, from 3.59 meters to 1.25 meters. 

The Norwegian Polar Institute is currently heading a science expedition where the vessel “Lance” is frozen into the sea ice between Svalbard and the North Pole. The vessel drift with the ice as the team of international scientists on board studies oceanographic properties, the ice itself, meteorological parameters and ice dynamics. 

You can follow the science cruise on the blog site of the Polar Institute.