Winter is supposed to be a time when things quiet down in the Arctic, animals hibernate in complete darkness, and all that can be seen from satellites is this great, icy mass getting bigger and bigger. That's how it goes most of the time, despite the spectacular summer sea ice losses of the past decades. But of course, there are exceptions, and this winter is one of those. In fact, it's an exceptional exception.
I want to highlight a couple of things to give you an idea of what's going on in the Arctic right now. As some of you may already know, this year's trend line is the lowest on record in practically every graph (see here). So far, it has played a major role in the breaking of Global sea ice area and extent minimum records, and it looks highly possible that last year's Arctic sea ice maximum record gets broken too. Mind you, that record was already spectacularly early and low, which is why I referred to it as Mad Max at the time.
It's a bit too early to be calling the max, which I vowed never to do again anyway, but here's the current situation on the Cryosphere Today sea ice area and JAXA sea ice extent graph (as provided by ADS-NIPR):
2015 peaked on this date in the CT SIA data set, but this year is currently 700K lower (last week's preliminary peak was almost 600K lower). The 2015 maximum occurred on February 15th in the JAXA SIE data set, but this year's preliminary peak is almost 274K lower. That's no small change, if things stay this way.
When area/extent is exceptionally low, it's usually a sign of something going on one side of the Arctic, while things are relatively quiet on the other side. This year, however, there's stuff going on on both sides of the Arctic. I'll start with the Pacific side of the Arctic, where regional extent is again very low in the Bering Sea, though high in the Sea of Okhotsk (these graphs are produced by Wipneus and can be found on the Regional Graphs page):