The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that the Arctic sea ice extent for December 2012 was well below average, driven by anomalously low ice conditions in the Kara, Barents, and Labrador seas.
NSIDC states that the winter has been dominated by the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation, bringing the cold climate around the Arctic.
The Arctic Oscillation is an Arctic climate index with positive and negative phases, which represents the state of atmospheric circulation over the Arctic. The positive phase brings lower-than-normal pressure over the polar region, steering ocean storms northward, bringing wetter weather to Scotland and Scandinavia, and drier conditions to areas such as Spain and the Middle East.
Reports today also show that the average temperature for USA for 2012 was above average, showing different climate than in the Arctic, outside of Alaska.