Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent this year on March 21.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this year’s extent averaged 5.7 million square miles – that’s more than a quarter-of-a-million miles less than the average extent measured between 1981 and 2010, but it is also slightly above the record low measured in 2006.
This year’s was the fifth lowest maximum extent measured, but it’s also the fifth latest in terms of timing since researchers began keeping records 35 years ago.
Scientists attribute a brief surge in sea ice extent in mid-March to winds over both the Barents and Bering Seas that pushed ice pack south temporarily.
Scientists say air temperatures over the Arctic in late march were unusually high.