Antarctic sea ice at record high; northern hemisphere snow cover shows rapid spring decline
FRISCO — Arctic sea ice extent in May was about a quarter of a million square miles below the 1981-2010 average, ending up as the third-lowest on record for the month, according to the latest update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
By contrast, sea ice extent around Antarctica is at a record high, almost half a million square miles above the 1981-2010 baseline, marking the highest May Antarctic sea ice extent on record. Read the full NSIDC report here.
Elsewhere in the Earth’s frozen realms (called the cryosphere by scientists), the Rutgers Global Snow Lab documented another rapid spring meltdown of the northern hemisphere’s snow cover, in line with the recent trend of low spring snow cover extent. May snow cover has been below average in the northern hemisphere every year since 2004.
In May, snow rapidly retreated in the central Canadian Provinces in North America, and Central Asia (Kazakhstan and northwestern China), where extensive areas had above-average snow cover in February.
Dwindling spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere may be linked with the decline of Arctic sea ice, the NSIDC update said, explaining that warmer air over the darker-colored snow-free areas can lead to warm air advection over the sea ice.
Low snow cover leads to dry conditions in northern boreal forests, which means more forest fires and increased soot deposition on the Greenland ice sheet surface. High concentrations of soot on the Greenland snow pack and sea ice can contribute to ice retreat and melt.