Arctic Ice Watch July 31

Someone asked how the annual average ice extent was coming along this year, so I crunched the numbers. The table shows 2016 year to date (YTD) compared to the ten-year average YTD (2006 -2015 inclusive).  Results are provided from MASIE as well as SII (Sea Ice Index from NOAA, Multisensor Analyzed Sea Ice Extent from National Ice Center). SII monthly average for September will be the number used by the Sea Ice Prediction Network to compare to forecasted extents.

Monthly 2016 2016 2016 2016-10yr Ave 2016-10yr Ave
Jan 13.922 13.472 -0.450 0.049 -0.308
Feb 14.804 14.210 -0.593 0.019 -0.422
Mar 14.769 14.405 -0.364 -0.239 -0.481
Apr 13.917 13.694 -0.223 -0.391 -0.613
May 12.086 11.900 -0.186 -0.681 -1.060
June 10.419 10.353 -0.066 -0.533 -0.839
July 8.067 7.920 -0.147 -0.334 -0.501
YTD Ave. 12.569 12.279 -0.290 -0.301 -0.603

MASIE shows 2016 average annual ice extent calculated from the seven monthly averages is 12.6M km2, ~300k km2 below average YTD. SII shows YTD average extent is 12.3M km2, about 300k km2 less than MASIE, and 600k km2 less than SII YTD average of the last ten years. IOW, MASIE YTD is 2.3% below average and SII is 4.7% below average.

The table also shows most of the MASIE ice deficits arose in April, May, and June, offsetting normal January and February measurements.  SII shows all months in 2016 down by much larger amounts.

You may also notice that the monthly loss of extent is increasing, and August will likely be similar to July.  September losses will be smaller since refreezing typically resumes in the last week or so.  Still, there is no cause for alarm, despite what this guy says.

30 August 2012: Cambridge Professor Peter Wadhams predicts Arctic summer sea ice “all gone by 2015”.

MASIE 2016 day213

As the chart below shows, the seas most down from average this year are Beaufort, E. Siberian, Kara, CAA, and Greenland Sea.  Meanwhile higher extents are showing in Chukchi and Laptev, resulting in 2016 ~350k km2 below average for this date.

Region 2016213 Day 213 Average 2016-Ave.
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 6640969 6988735 -347766
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 669717 793684 -123967
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 582590 540462 42127
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 661000 784830 -123830
 (4) Laptev_Sea 669258 386981 282277
 (5) Kara_Sea 54858 179795 -124937
 (6) Barents_Sea 144 30868 -30724
 (7) Greenland_Sea 182516 316383 -133866
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 126394 122921 3473
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 482313 545093 -62781
 (10) Hudson_Bay 111666 138699 -27033
 (11) Central_Arctic 3099606 3146919 -47313
 (12) Bering_Sea 0 186 -186
 (13) Baltic_Sea 0 47 -47
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 0 710 -710

2016213 NH Max Loss % Loss Sea Max % Total Loss
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 8436630 55.95% 100%
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 400728 37.44% 5%
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 383399 39.69% 4%
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 426120 39.20% 5%
 (4) Laptev_Sea 228552 25.46% 3%
 (5) Kara_Sea 880130 94.13% 10%
 (6) Barents_Sea 599235 99.98% 7%
 (7) Greenland_Sea 477196 72.33% 5%
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1518188 92.31% 17%
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 370866 43.47% 4%
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1149204 91.14% 13%
 (11) Central_Arctic 147104 4.53% 2%
 (12) Bering_Sea 768232 100.00% 9%
 (13) Baltic_Sea 97582 100.00% 1%
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 1308697 100.00% 15%

It is clear from the above that the bulk of ice losses are coming from Okhotsk, Barents and Bering Seas (100% melted),along with Kara Sea, Hudson Bay and Baffin Bay-St. Lawrence (90+% melted).  All of them are marginal seas that will go down close to zero by September.  Note: Some seas are not at max on the NH max day.  Thus, totals from adding losses will vary from NH daily total.

CPC shows the Arctic Oscillation waffling between positive and negative values, recently positive and forecasted to near neutral. Generally, positive AO signifies lower pressures over Arctic ice, with more cloud, lower insolation and less melting.  The outlook at this point is mixed.

September Minimum Outlook

Historically, where will ice be remaining when Arctic melting stops? Over the last 10 years, on average MASIE shows the annual minimum occurring about day 260. Of course in a given year, the daily minimum varies slightly a few days +/- from that.

For comparison, here are sea ice extents reported from 2007, 2012, 2014 and 2015 for day 260:

Arctic Regions 2007 2012 2014 2015
Central Arctic Sea 2.67 2.64 2.98 2.93
BCE 0.50 0.31 1.38 0.89
Greenland & CAA 0.56 0.41 0.55 0.46
Bits & Pieces 0.32 0.04 0.22 0.15
NH Total 4.05 3.40 5.13 4.44

Notes: Extents are in M km2.  BCE region includes Beaufort, Chukchi and Eastern Siberian seas. Greenland Sea (not the ice sheet). Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA).  Locations of the Bits and Pieces vary.

As the table shows, low NH minimums come mainly from ice losses in Central Arctic and BCE.  The great 2012 cyclone hit both in order to set the recent record. The recovery since 2012 shows in 2014, with some dropoff last year, mostly in BCE.


We are well into the melt season, and the resulting minimum will depend upon the vagaries of weather between now and September.  Early on, 2016 was slightly higher than 2015 in March, lower in May and narrowing the gap late June and late July. Note: 2016 melt season is starting without the Blob, with El Nino over, and a cold blob in the North Atlantic.  The AO has been hovering around neutral, now possibly indicating cloud cover reducing the pace of melting.

Meanwhile we can watch and appreciate the beauty of the changing ice conditions.

Arctic sea ice in summer 2015. This photo was made during an expedition of the German research icebreaker Polarstern into the central Arctic Ocean. Credit: Stefan Hendricks

Footnote:  Regarding the colder than normal water in the North Atlantic

A 2016 article for EOS is entitled Atlantic Sea Ice Could Grow in the Next Decade

Changing ocean circulation in the North Atlantic could lead to winter sea ice coverage remaining steady and even growing in select regions.

The researchers analyzed simulations from the Community Earth System Model, modeling both atmosphere and ocean circulation. They found that decadal-scale trends in Arctic winter sea ice extent are largely explained by changes in ocean circulation rather than by large-scale external factors like anthropogenic warming.

From the Abstract of Yeager et al.

We present evidence that the extreme negative trends in Arctic winter sea-ice extent in the late 1990s were a predictable consequence of the preceding decade of persistent positive winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) conditions and associated spin-up of the thermohaline circulation (THC). Initialized forecasts made with the Community Earth System Model decadal prediction system indicate that relatively low rates of North Atlantic Deep Water formation in recent years will result in a continuation of a THC spin-down that began more than a decade ago. Consequently, projected 10-year trends in winter Arctic winter sea-ice extent seem likely to be much more positive than has recently been observed, with the possibility of actual decadal growth in Atlantic sea-ice in the near future.


  1. ArndB · August 1, 2016

    Ron; deep admiration for your consistent Arctic development reviews, which logically (due to colder North Atlantic ) may tend to “growth in Atlantic sea-ice in the near future” (even though the Barents Sea is much above average) as discussed: last year here: , and still is this summer.
    Accodring your post: Cambridge Professor Peter Wadhams predicts Arctic summer sea ice “all gone by 2015”; (30 August 2012), here is an EXTRACT from page 5 at: , ditto : with a reference in 2007:
    QUOTE “The world should know: The Arctic is Screaming note d newspapers recently. No one had heard the Arctic crying, but was there something that should have signalled horror? It is true; the annual arctic sea ice cover had been decreasing during the summer season for a couple of years. The remaining minimum ice cover around September produced record after record: the record from 2005 was beaten by 2006, which was beaten by 2007. That was the point when the émigré in polar science Mark Serreze informed the press: “The Arctic
    is screaming” [widely reported, e.g. Associated Press; 12 Dec.2007 by Seth Borenstein; “Ominous Arctic Melt
    Worries Experts”. ] As a senior scientist at the government’s snow and ice data Center in Boulder, Colorado, Mark Serreze should know what he is talking about, or had it been his scream.
    Read it all :
    All Mark Serreze offered was his scream, based on gross guessing.
    For me the blindness of science is a miracle in ignorance!
    Keep goung Ron, thanks and best regards!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ron Clutz · August 1, 2016

    Thanks for the encouragement Arnd. The Arctic is never predictable, nor does it submit to our claims of understanding. Though I believe that the extent varies mostly because of the 3 Ws: Water, Wind and Weather, in that order.

    Liked by 1 person

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