Sea ice extent in May 2012, compared to the median ice edge from 1979 to 2000. (Photo: NSIDC)The Arctic sea ice melting season is in full force and the ice edge in May was below average. The ice edge reached near average in late April but the melt happened rapidly in May.
The Arctic Ocean was fully frozen in May as can be seen on the picture on the right, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
The Arctic sea ice extent for May 2012 averaged 13.13 million square kilometers (5.07 million square miles). This was 480,000 square kilometers (185,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average extent.
Ice cover remained extensive in the Bering Sea, continuing the pattern observed this past winter and spring. The anomalously heavy ice conditions were countered by unusually low extents in the Barents and Kara Seas, resulting in Arctic-wide ice conditions that remained below normal. By the end of the month, open water areas had begun to form along some parts of Arctic Ocean coast.
For May, the Arctic as a whole lost 1.62 million square kilometers (625,000 square miles) of ice, which was 180,000 square kilometers (69,500 square miles) more than the 1979 to 2000 average.
Air temperatures for May were higher than usual over the central Arctic Ocean and the Canadian Archipelago. Over the Bering Sea, Hudson Bay, and parts of the East Greenland and Norwegian seas, temperatures were slightly below average.