24.08.2012 - Natural Sciences Sector

Arctic Sea Ice is Already at Record Minimum

© NERSC Time series of Arctic sea ice area. See the latest here: http://arctic-roos.org/observations/satellite-data/sea-ice/observation_images/ssmi1_ice_area.png

© National Snow and Ice Data Center Arctic sea ice extent on 8 August 2012 compared to the 1979-2000 median.

Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) Satellite and in situ data help to monitor Sea Ice in Arctic.

 

On 22 August 2012, even before the expected season for minimal sea ice, Arctic sea ice coverage was less than it was in 2007, the year of the greatest sea ice meltback on record. Minimal sea ice usually occurs in September just before the Arctic begins to cool again, as the sun passes through equinox.

The rapid meltback this year is probably due to anomalous weather patterns over the Arctic which have brought temperatures one to three degrees above the decadal averages for 1981-2010. As in previous years the Arctic Sea is opening up on the Atlantic side, north of Scandinavian countries and Russia. During the first weeks of August the ice has opened the NE passage along the coast of Russia.   

Arctic sea ice extent on August 13 was 5.09 million km². This is 2.69 million km² below the 1979 to 2000 average extent for the date, and is 483,000 km² below the previous record low for the date, which occurred in 2007. Average monthly Arctic sea ice extent data shows a clear deceasing trend since 1979.

Thanks to data collected and disseminated by the Arctic Regional Ocean Observing System (Arctic ROOS) and by national observing efforts, information about the extent of the Arctic sea ice is reported every few days, providing an early warning of changing conditions in the Arctic Ocean.  

Arctic ROOS is part of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) led by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC), which is the overarching coordination tool to observe, model and analyse marine and ocean variables worldwide. The concept of a global ocean observing system grew from the realisation that understanding and forecasting climate change would require a long-term, multivariate ocean observing system. The data the system yields are used to provide accurate descriptions of the present state of the oceans, including living resources; continuous forecasts of the future conditions of the sea for as far ahead as possible, and the basis for climate forecasts.

The Arctic sea ice area is expected to continue decreasing until September. Other updated observation data may be accessed daily from the Arctic ROOS website.   

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