The maximum Arctic sea ice extent appears to have occurred on March 24, 2016, reaching an extent of 14.52 million square kilometers (5.607 million square miles). This is below the previous lowest maximum recorded in 2015 when it reached 14.54 million square kilometers (5.612 million square miles). Overall, there is a declining trend in the maximum extent of about 2.8 % per decade. This is much smaller than the summer trends, but also reflects the long-term warming trend in the Arctic.
While a low maximum gives the extent a head start heading into summer, it turns out that there is not much relation between the maximum and summer minimum and a record low maximum does not portend a record low minimum. This is because the ice near the edge at the time of the maximum is thin, seasonal ice that will melt out early in the summer. The weather conditions in the Arctic during the summer melt season is the most crucial in determining whether a record low is possible in any given year.
In this animation, the Arctic sea ice area is derived from a running 3-day maximum of the AMSR2 sea ice concentration where the concentration is greater than 15%. The blueish white color of the sea ice is derived from a 3-day running minimum of the AMSR2 89 GHz brightness temperature that is linearly mapped between the high and low values.
GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version 188.8.131.52.0