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Melting sea ice, exposing huge parts of the ocean to the atmosphere, explains extreme weather both hot and cold
Melting sea ice has been blamed for the extreme weather hitting the northern hemisphere this past winter.
According to climate scientists, massive snow storms like those that hit North America and Europe recently were directly related to shrinking sea ice levels in the Arctic.
Satellite pictures showed the ice had reached its maximum around March 15, but was still the sixth lowest expanse on record.
As the yearly sea ice melt season began, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, said there were only about 5.7 million square miles.
The center's Walt Meier told Australia's ABC News that the thickness of the sea ice was also a concern.
"More importantly, at this time of year, is the thickness of the ice, and that's still looking quite low. It's probably at or near record low levels for this time of year."
The Guardian quoted Jennifer Francis, a research professor with the Rutgers Institute of Coastal and Marine Science, as saying:
"The sea ice is going rapidly. It's 80 percent less than it was just 30 years ago. There has been a dramatic loss. This is a symptom of global warming and it contributes to enhanced warming of the Arctic."
Francis said Arctic warming weakened the jet stream — the high-altitude river of air the that governs weather patterns in the northern hemisphere.
The Northeastern US was hit by a massive blizzard in February which caused at least eight deaths and paralyzed the region with high winds and heavy snow. The storm dumped as much as three feet of snow across New England before battering three Canadian provinces.
Meanwhile, unusually heavy snowstorms caused severe travel disruptions across northern Europe.
The ABC citedMeteoGroupforecaster Claire Austin as saying that March has been especially cold in the northern hemisphere.
"It's much, much colder and it has been cold for the last few weeks - so it is unusual. We do get snowfalls, even up as far as April, where we see some quite significant snowfalls at times. This is just incredibly cold air [that] doesn't want to go away unfortunately."