Thursday, March 27, 2014

2014 Arctic Sea Ice Maximum has Passed

It isn't official yet, but it will be soon. The maximum extent of Arctic sea ice passed in the last week or two. Take a look at these two figures. The first is the daily Arctic sea ice extent as plotted by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The second is the surface temperature in the Arctic region and was obtained from the Polar Portal. We can see from the first plot that the amount of ice extent is decreasing. Fluctuations are normal and expected, but the second figure shows that the surface temperature of the ice along the fringes is above freezing, so no new ice will be forming.

Source: NSIDC

Source: Polar Portal

Unfortunately, it looks like bad news for the Arctic sea ice this year. There is a long melt season ahead of us, so nothing is for certain. However, we are starting off badly. The level of sea ice this year is significantly below the 2012 level. This is important for two reasons. The summer of 2012 led to the lowest level of Arctic sea ice ever recorded, and this level was much lower than anything measured before. The second reason the 2014 levels are significant is because there was a large rebound of Arctic sea ice last year - a 60% rebound. Many people have been hoping this rebound would lead to increased levels of ice going into the future and slow down the climate change effects occurring in the Arctic region. However, even with the big 60% rebound, we see the extent levels for this year are starting out much lower than in recent years.

Hopefully, the melt rate will be slow this summer and we won't see a recurrence of 2012, but I don't feel good about the chances.

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