Arctic sea ice extent shrunk down to 2.0 million square miles (5.1 million square kilometers) in September 2013—18 percent below the 1981-2010 average, but larger than record low set in 2012.

Among the questions triggered by the entrapment of a Russian ship near Antarctica on Christmas Eve were whether the ice conditions were out of the ordinary, and, if so, whether long-term climate change was playing a role.

To be consistent with NOAA's use of 30-year periods for the official "climate normals," the National Snow and Ice Data Center switched its baseline period for sea ice analyses from 1979-2000 to 1981-2010.  Compared to the new normal, the low ice conditions of the recent past will appear less abnormal than they used to.

 

In 2012, sea ice melted to a record-breaking minimum extent. At the end of the summer melt season, ice covered only about half of the average area it did from 1979–2000.

Arctic sea ice extent fell to 1.58 million square miles on August 26, 2012. This was 27,000 square miles smaller than the previous record low of 1.61 million square miles set in 2007.

Since the mid-1950s, easy-to-serve, portion-controlled fish sticks have regularly found their way onto U.S. dinner tables and into school lunches. The past decade, however, has given fishermen and scientists a preview of the challenges they may face in keeping fish sticks on the menu as the planet gets warmer.

In September 2011, Arctic sea ice reached its second-lowest minimum extent in the satellite record.

Phytoplankton productivity has increased 20 percent over the past decade as sea ice extent declines and more open water habitat is available.

In the Arctic, an ocean is surrounded by continents, while Antarctica is continent surrounded by oceans. These differences in the arrangement of land and water contribute to differences in each polar region’s climate, oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns, and seasonal and long-term sea ice patterns.

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