UPDATE: The National Snow and Ice Data Center says this winter's maximum sea ice extent was the sixth lowest since satellite data began to be collected in 1979. KUAC reports that in addition to the loss of 10 to 15 percent of the ice pack during those years, more of the ice is thin first-year ice that's quick to melt as the weather warms each spring.
The Arctic Ocean ice pack reached its maximum extent on March 15 and has begun its 2013 melt-off, says the National Snow and Ice Data Center. At the same time, scientists studying the effects of warming in the Arctic say that last summer's big melt-off -- which resulted in the lowest ice extent ever recorded in the satellite era -- is contributing to late winter and early spring cold spells and storms across the Northern Hemisphere's middle latitudes.
According to [Rutgers University researcher Jennifer] Francis and a growing body of other researchers, the Arctic ice loss adds heat to the ocean and atmosphere, which shifts the position of the jet stream – the high-altitude river of air that steers storm systems and governs most weather in the Northern Hemisphere.
"This is what is affecting the jet stream and leading to the extreme weather we are seeing in mid-latitudes," she said. "It allows the cold air from the Arctic to plunge much further south. The pattern can be slow to change because the [southern] wave of the jet stream is getting bigger. It's now at a near record position, so whatever weather you have now is going to stick around," she said.
Read more at The Guardian: Scientists link frozen spring to dramatic Arctic sea ice loss The International Business Times and Wunderground are also reporting today on the latest Arctic research findings.