If the ice emerges from winter in a particularly thin state, then it has less of a chance of staying frozen throughout the remainder of the year as temperatures rise.
The Arctic has been freakishly warm over the past two years.
That maximum extent for Arctic sea ice over this past winter came in at 14.42 million square kilometres, the NSIDC said.
According to scientists at NASA in Boulder Colorado, on February 13th, both poles combined hit record lows.
Serreze said well-above-average warmth over the Arctic Ocean since fall has led to well-below-average sea-ice formation. Compared to last year's record low, ice covering the Arctic Ocean lost about 100,000 square kilometers.
"The long-term decline is a clear indicator of climate change", said Walt Meier, a NASA scientist and an affiliate scientist at National Snow and Ice Data Center, which announced the low record set for Arctic winter sea ice maximum extent March 22. That's 471,000 square miles - 8% - below the 1981-2010 average.
On March 2, Antarctic sea ice hit a record-low summertime minimum. 2016 set the third-lowest maximum extent on record.
"It is tempting to say that the record low we are seeing this year is global warming finally catching up with Antarctica", added Meier.
Average temperatures were two degrees warmer than the 1981-2010 average and 3.5 degrees warmer than 1900. The ice floats on top of water already, and when it melts the total ocean volume doesn't change. If you start in the northeast corner of the U.S., the missing ice would be enough to cover Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and all but the very tip of Florida.
Although the North and South pole maintain different seasonal calendars both have "maximum" extents for their floating sea ice - the furthest point that they freeze over every year, before shrinking again. "And we'll see how things work out this spring and summer, but I'm expecting we're going to have a very, very low September extent".
Sea ice is crucial to Arctic life from polar bears to plankton and is believed to influence southern weather patterns. He said the minimum is the more important and telling metric.