The annual contest between the ocean and the ice is about to heat up.
March is the peak month for Arctic ice extent, and the daily max may already be in the books. MASIE shows these maximum extents:
2016 day 61 15.08 M km2
2015 day 62 14.91 M km2
Ave. day 62 15.10 M km2
As the graph shows, 2016 is trending below the 10 yr. Average and higher than last year. Comparing the estimates with SII (Sea Ice Index from NOAA) shows how much lower are extents from that source. SII max was 14.56 on day 60. So far, SII March average is about 500k km2 behind MASIE. Since March on average is quite flat over the month, SII has time to catch up, provided it starts showing some increases or a slower decline.
For more on discrepancies between MASIE and SII see here.
This table looks in detail at day 69 km2 extent this year and last:
Overall, 2016 is 275k km2 higher. The main difference is in Baffin Bay, which is more than offset by Sea of Okhotsk and Bering Sea. Barents is slightly higher than last year, which is still much lower than average. Comparing the two years, last March had a double dip from Okhotsk and Barents low extents, along with early melting from Bering. Only one of them is low this year, though we must watch out for Baffin Bay. Baltic Sea has a lot of ice, though a smaller basin.
Reminder: All of the marginal seas will typically melt out by September.
MASIE: “high-resolution, accurate charts of ice conditions”
Walt Meier, NSIDC, October 2015 article in Annals of Glaciology.