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climate change impact
Sea-ice cover for July 2017. The pink line denotes the climatological ice edge for July for the period 1981-2010. Source: ERA-Interim. (Credit: ECMWF Copernicus Climate Change Service)

In recent times, sea-ice areas have been much less widespread in the Arctic as well as the Antarctic regions. As found by Copernicus, the European Union’s earth observation program, in July 2017, ice-extent has been lower than average from 1981 to 2010 over most of the Arctic, specifically on the Pacific side. The ice has retreated in the Beaufort, Chukchi, and East Siberian Seas.

The Arctic sea ice extent for July 2017 averaged 8.21 million square kilometers (3.17 million square miles), the fifth lowest July in the 1979 to 2017 satellite record. The Antarctic sea-ice cover has also been lower than overall average.

climate change impact
Surface air temperature anomaly for July 2017 relative to the July average for the period 1981-2010. Source: ERA-Interim. (Credit: ECMWF Copernicus Climate Change Service)

In the Arctic and Antarctic regions, this year in July, anomalies have occurred in air temperature as well. Temperatures have been above average over Alaska, and 2 to 4 degrees Celsius (4 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit) lower than average over Greenland, East Central Siberia, and the Laptev Sea. The regions of below-average sea-ice cover have been warmer, and regions having above-average sea-ice cover have been cooler. These changes could have occurred due to anomalies in atmospheric circulation.

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While the region of the Arctic Ocean with substantial ice cover has exhibited a very small temperature anomaly, warm temperatures have occurred over the regions of below-average sea-ice cover around Antarctica.

The sea-ice cover in the Arctic region has shown a downward trend after 2000. Summer and autumn have been characterized by low sea-ice cover in recent years, but for the last three years the trend has prevailed even in winter.  In the Antarctic region, while the sea-ice cover has remained above average in 2007-2009 and 2013-2015, in the past year, it has been substantially below average.