At the height of the most recent winter season, Arctic sea ice was at its lowest level ever recorded, with climate change playing a key role in this historic decline, the National Snow and Ice Data Center revealed Thursday.
Arctic sea ice reached its maximum levels on February 25th at 5.61 million square miles. This "was the lowest in the satellite record, with below-average ice conditions everywhere except in the Labrador Sea and Davis Strait," the scientists note.
While there is still a chance that ice levels could bounce back late in the season, the researchers say that outcome is unlikely.
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Scientists, United Nations experts, and federal authorities overwhelmingly link the dramatic thinning and disappearance of Arctic ice to climate change, and numerous studies confirm that 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded.
The NSIDC's findings, furthermore, come on the heels of a study published earlier this month in the journal Cryosphere, which concluded that Arctic sea ice is vanishing far more rapidly than was previously thought.
The decline of Arctic ice is already having a dramatic impact on the ecosystem and wildlife, from walruses to polar bears, and has forced Indigenous peoples to alter their hunting strategies, leading to more dangerous conditions.
Ted Scambos, senior research scientist for the NSIDC, told the Guardian that "[The record low extent] is significant, in that it shows that the Arctic is being seriously impacted by our warming climate."