Arctic Sea Ice: Summer Update

Arctic Sea Ice Cover up to 14th June 2013

Arctic Sea Ice Cover up to 14th June 2013. Picture from The National Snow and Ice Data Centre.

Arctic Sea Ice has become a news story. At least it is news in September when it reaches its annual minimum. But as the UK basks in a summer heatwave, it is nice to pop over occasionally to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre to check how the annual melt is progressing in the Arctic.

Last year was record minimum, and in large part that was due to an event which took place just at the start of June 2012. You can see the evidence of that on the graph above (click for larger figure). I have also enlarged the relevant detail in the graph below.

Arctic Sea Ice Detail

Arctic Sea Ice Detail. 2012 data is shown is as a dotted line.

The sudden fall at the start of last June was due to an unusually strong storm which broke up the sea ice, and dispersed it. Since the graph charts the area of the Arctic with at least 15% ice cover – just spreading the ice about resulted in a precipitous decline of about 1 million square kilometres in two weeks.

Now it might be argued that ‘this shouldn’t count’ as real sea ice loss because it was an ‘exceptional circumstance’. I disagree.

Firstly, no matter what the proximate cause, the ultimate cause was that the sea ice was thin and relatively fragile.

And secondly, no matter what the cause, it made the sea/ice surface darker and resulted in increased absorption of sunlight.

And although it would make a great ‘news story’ if there was another storm and another ‘record’ Arctic sea-ice minimum, for the planet’s sake we could we do with a few ‘no news’ years in the Arctic.

3 Responses to “Arctic Sea Ice: Summer Update”

  1. Edmond Hui Says:

    Great news for global warming! If there aren’t any exceptional storms for a few years, there won’t be a sea-ice minimum for a long time, so we’ll know that things aren’t really getting worse!
    Wonderful. I don’t have to worry anymore.

  2. H Stiles (@HStiles1) Says:

    Mark McCarthy ‏@markpmcc says the storm was August

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