Arctic sea ice hit a record low in May 2016 as scientists discovered the first-ever link between melting ice in Greenland and a phenomenon known to warm the area faster than the rest of the Northern Hemisphere.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado
, sea ice extent across the Arctic was 4.63 million square miles, which was an astonishing 224,000 square miles below the previous record low for the month of May, set in 2004.
Data published by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) this week showed average sea ice extent for last month was more than 500,000 sq km (193,000 sq miles) smaller than May 2012.
"We just didn't break the old May record, we're way below the previous one," Mark Serreze, the center's director said.
The occurrence is called "Arctic amplification" and until now, scientists didn't know Greenland was linked to it, according to a study published Thursday in the British journal Nature Communications.
The extent of sea ice in the Arctic is one of the key indicators of global warming, and the new findings have been greeted with concern by scientists. Although it is too early to say whether this summer’s ice extent will be the lowest recorded, if current projections follow the course of previous years then it will be at least one of the lowest ever.
In a press release on Tuesday, the NSIDC said that "an unusually early retreat" of sea ice cover in the Beaufort Sea
to the north of Alaska
, and "pulses of warm air entering the Arctic from eastern Siberia and northernmost Europe" helped prime the Arctic for the record low.