So what? This is yet another indicator of the effects of ongoing warming of the planet as part of the current trend in global climate change. If you look at the map above you may not think that the difference between the 1981-2010 average is that compelling, but the bottom line is that the winter maximum sea ice extents and the summer minimum sea ice extents in the Arctic continue to drop as the years go on.
This means that we continue to slide farther and farther down the climate change chute - impacts have always been predicted to be most extreme and obvious in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet. But if this is happening in the Arctic we should not be surprised to see other effects elsewhere...increasing temperatures, increasing intensities of storms, shifting weather and precipitation patterns, sea level rise, etc.
Oh, and a few more tidbits of information...the first time the Arctic maximum winter sea ice extent dropped below the 1981-2010 average was in 1995, and the last year the Arctic maximum sea ice extent matched or exceeded the 1981-2010 average was in 2003. Every year since 2004 has had Arctic maximum winter sea ice extents below the long-term average...that's 11 years running!
Click on the link below for more detailed information from the NSIDC:Lowest Maximum Arctic Sea Ice Extent in Recorded History