Global Snow and Ice - March 2016

NH Snow Cover Extent

March 2016 Snow Cover Extent 1981-2010 Anomaly Trend
(per decade)
Rank
(out of 50 years)
Records
million km2 million mi2 million km2 million mi2 million km2 million mi2 Year(s) million km2 million mi2
Northern Hemisphere 37.16 14.35 -2.97 -1.14 -0.48 -0.19 Largest 49th 1985 44.28 17.10
Smallest 2nd 1990 37.12 14.33
North America 14.59 5.63 -1.05 -0.40 -0.08 -0.03 Largest 48th 1969 17.29 6.68
Smallest 3rd 1968 14.04 5.42
Eurasia 22.57 8.72 -1.92 -0.74 -0.40 -0.15 Largest 46th 1981 27.95 10.79
Smallest 5th 2002 21.18 8.18

Data Source: Global Snow Laboratory, Rutgers University. Period of record: 1967–2016 (50 years)

During March, the Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent (SCE) was 37.16 million square km (14.35 million square miles), 2.97 million square km (1.14 million square miles) below the 1981-2010 average. This was the second smallest March SCE for the Northern Hemisphere in the 50-year period of record and 40,000 square km (20,000 square miles) larger than the record set in 1990. March Northern Hemisphere SCE is decreasing at an average rate of 1.2 percent per decade. During March both the North American and Eurasian SCE were below average.

The March North American SCE was 14.59 million square km (5.63 million square miles), 1.05 million square km (410,000 square miles) below the 1981-2010 average, the third smallest on record. The March SCE in 1968 and 2000 were smaller. The March North American SCE is decreasing at an average rate of 0.5 percent per decade. During the month, across the U.S., below-average snow cover was observed in parts of the West, Great Plains, and Northeast. In Canada, below-average snow cover was observed across the southern Prairies while above-average snow cover was observed in parts of the Rockies.

The Eurasian SCE during March was 22.57 million square km (8.72 million square miles), 1.92 million square km (740,000 square miles) below average, and ranked as the fifth smallest on record. The Eurasian SCE during March is decreasing at an average rate of 1.6 percent per decade. Below-average snow cover was observed across much of central and eastern Europe, Turkey, southwestern Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, northeastern China, northern Iran, and parts of the Tibetan Plateau. Above-average snow cover was observed in the European Alps, northern Europe, and parts of south-central China.

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Sea Ice Extent

March 2016 Sea Ice Extent
1981-2010
Anomaly
Trend
(per decade)
Rank
(out of 38 years)
Records
million km2 million mi2 Year(s) million km2 million mi2
Northern Hemisphere 14.40 5.56 -6.68% -2.53% Largest 37th 1979 16.34 6.31
Smallest 2nd 2015 14.37 5.55
Southern Hemisphere 4.07 1.57 +0.99% +4.96% Largest 18th 2008 5.28 2.04
Smallest 21st 2006 3.21 1.24
Globe 18.47 7.13 -5.09% -0.98% Largest 35th 2008 20.46 7.90
Smallest 4th 2006 17.63 6.81

Data Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Period of record: 1979–2016 (38 years)

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the Northern Hemisphere (Arctic) sea ice extent — which is measured from passive microwave instruments onboard NOAA satellites — averaged for March 2016 was 14.43 million square km (5.57 million square miles), 1.09 million square km (420,000 square miles), or 7.02 percent, below the 1981-2010 average. This was the second smallest March Arctic sea ice extent on record; only the March 2015 Arctic sea ice extent was smaller at 14.39 million square km (5.56 million square miles). At the end of March, below-average sea ice extent was observed for most regions of the Arctic, particularly the Barents and Kara seas. Near-average sea ice extent was observed in the Labrador Sea, Baffin Bay, and Hudson Bay. March Arctic sea ice extent is decreasing at an average rate of 2.6 percent per decade.

On March 24th, the Arctic sea ice reached its annual maximum extent, marking the start of the annual melt season. Arctic sea ice will continue to shrink until the annual minimum extent is observed, typically in September. The 2016 annual maximum extent was the smallest in the satellite record with below-average sea ice observed for most regions of the Arctic with notable exceptions in the Labrador Sea, Baffin Bay, and Hudson Bay. The maximum extent was 1.12 million square km (431,000 square miles) below the 1981-2010 average, or roughly the size of Bolivia, and about 13,000 square km (5,000 square miles) smaller than the previous record that occurred just last year in 2015. The maximum extent occurred 12 days later than average, with previous maximum extents occurring as early as February 24th (1996) and as late as April 2nd (2010).

The March Southern Hemisphere sea ice extent was 4.65 million square km (1.80 million square miles), which was 240,000 square km (100,000 square miles), or 5.44 percent, above the 1981-2010 average. This was the 14th largest Southern Hemisphere sea ice extent on record but the smallest since 2011. Sea ice rapidly expanded during March across the Southern Hemisphere, averaging 90,000 square km (35,000 square miles) of growth per day. The most rapid sea ice expansion occurred in the eastern Ross Sea. Southern Hemisphere sea ice extent is increasing at an average rate of 4.8 percent per decade, with substantial inter-annual variability.

For further information on the Northern and Southern Hemisphere snow and ice conditions, please visit the NSIDC News page.

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Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Global Snow and Ice for March 2016, published online April 2016, retrieved on February 29, 2020 from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global-snow/201603.

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