Melting sea ice is being 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 were directly related to shrinking sea ice levels in the Arctic. Satellite pictures show the ice has reached its maximum and is the sixth smallest expanse on record. As the yearly sea ice melt season begins, the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., said there were only about 15 million square kilometers.
"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," said the center's Walt Meier.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Francis of the Rutgers Institute of Coastal and Marine Science said Arctic warming weakened the jet stream — the high-altitude river of air the that governs weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere.
"The sea ice is going rapidly. It's 80 percent less than it was just 30 years ago," said Francis. "There has been a dramatic loss. This is a symptom of global warming and it contributes to enhanced warming of the Arctic."