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Another month, another record sea ice low

The new record is the seventh monthly record low set this year.

By
Brooks Hays
A maps shows the Arctic sea ice extent during November 2016. The pink lines represent the average extent between 1981 and 2001. Photo by National Snow and Ice Data Center/NASA Earth Observatory
A maps shows the Arctic sea ice extent during November 2016. The pink lines represent the average extent between 1981 and 2001. Photo by National Snow and Ice Data Center/NASA Earth Observatory

BOULDER, Colo., Dec. 6 (UPI) -- The extent of Arctic sea ice averaged 3.51 million square miles during November, a record low for the month. Scientists with the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder blame high air temperatures and warm ocean currents.

"It looks like a triple whammy -- a warm ocean, a warm atmosphere, and a wind pattern all working against the ice in the Arctic," NSIDC director Mark Serreze said in a news release.

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November's extent comprised 753,000 fewer square miles than the month's average ice coverage between 1981 and 2001. The most obvious absence of ice is in the Barents Sea, a portion of the the Arctic Ocean north of Norway, Finland and Eastern Russia.

Throughout November, the fjords of Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago, were found ice-less -- a rarity.

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The new record is the seventh monthly record low set this year. Both the winter and summer extents set or matched record lows in 2016.

The Arctic has hosted unusually high temperatures for much of the year and has also experienced an influx of warm water. Southerly winds pushed ice north and prevented expansion of the extent.

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Antarctica experienced similar conditions in recent months, triggering a rapid decline in ice coverage during the month of November. In addition to warm air and water temperatures, varied wind patterns thwarted the accumulation of Antarctic ice patches. Satellite images have also revealed several large polynyas, portions of open water within the ice pack.

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"Antarctic sea ice really went down the rabbit hole this time," said NSIDC lead scientist Ted Scambos. "There are a few things we can say about what happened, but we need to look deeper."

"The Arctic has typically been where the most interest lies, but this month, the Antarctic has flipped the script and it is southern sea ice that is surprising us," added NASA scientist and NSIDC affiliate scientist Walt Meier.

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