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Arctic sea ice 2019 wintertime level is seventh lowest

Source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Sea ice in the Arctic appears to have hit its annual maximum extent after growing through the fall and winter. The 2019 wintertime extent reached on March 13 ties with 2007's as the 7th smallest extent of winter sea ice in the satellite record, according to scientists.

  • This year's maximum extent peaked at 5.71 million square miles (14.78 million square kilometers) and is 332,000 square miles (860,000 square kilometers) below the 1981 to 2010 average maximum, equivalent to missing an area of ice larger than the state of Texas.

  • The Arctic sea ice cover, an expanse of frozen seawater floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas, thickens and expands during the fall and winter months.

  • The sea ice hits its maximum yearly extent sometime between late February and early April. It thins and shrinks during the spring and summer until it reaches its annual minimum extent in September.

Beyond its seasonal wax and wane cycles, Arctic sea ice extent has been plummeting during both the growing and melting seasons over the last 40 years
  • The 2019 maximum extent breaks a string of record or near-record lows that started in 2015, but that does not necessarily mean that Arctic sea ice is recovering.

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