BOULDER, Colo., March 11 (UPI) -- While sea ice around the globe nears record lows, the frozen ocean water in the Eastern and High Arctic has regained coverage and thickness at near-normal levels, thanks to one of the coldest winters in decades.
Canadian researchers recently back from an expedition to the High Arctic, north of Labrador, said the sea ice has returned to a thickness of nearly 3.5 feet in most areas.
"The ice has been quite thick according to the local hunters," team leader Christian Haas, the Canada Research Chair in Arctic sea ice geophysics, told CBC News. "It's quite remarkable given that a few years ago, people broke through the ice because it was so thin."
The gain in coverage and thickness is likely the result of a very cold winter. Air temperatures in these parts of the Arctic during January and February were the lowest they've been on more than 22 years.
But the sea ice to the far north and east of the Arctic seems to be an anomaly. Elsewhere -- in Antarctica and the western Arctic -- sea ice levels are at historic lows.
Satellite data show ice levels in the rest of the Arctic -- and overall -- are at their lowest levels this winter. Scientists say it's not clear, however, whether summer lows will be matched as well.
"Having a record low winter minimum would tend to set us up for a low September extent because we'd be starting off on a bad footing. Essentially, we are setting the table," said Mark Serreze, director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, in Boulder, Colorado.
"Having said that, the low extent for the Arctic as a whole is mostly due to mild ice conditions in the sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea," Serreze said, "which are areas that, even in an average year, will melt out anyways during summer."