Arctic Ice Made Simple

People are overthinking and over-analyzing Arctic Ice extents, and getting wrapped around the axle (or should I say axis).  So let’s keep it simple and we can all readily understand what is happening up North.

I will use the ever popular NOAA dataset derived from satellite passive microwave sensors.  It sometimes understates the ice extents, but everyone refers to it and it is complete from 1979 to 2017.  Here’s what NOAA reports (in M km2):

If I were adding this to the Ice House of Mirrors, the name would be The X-Ray Ice Mirror, because it looks into the structure of the time series.   For even more clarity and simplicity, here is the table:

NOAA NH Annual Average Ice Extents (in M km2).  Sea Ice Index v3.0 (here)

Year Average Change Rate of Change
1979 12.328
1994 12.011 -0.317 0.021 per year
2007 10.474 -1.537 0.118 per year
2017 10.393  -0.081 0.008 per year

The satellites involve rocket science, but this does not.  There was a small loss of ice extent over the first 15 years, then a dramatic downturn for 13 years, 6 times the rate as before. That was followed by the current plateau with virtually no further loss of ice extent.  All the fuss is over that middle period, and we know what caused it.  A lot of multi-year ice was flushed out through the Fram Strait, leaving behind more easily melted younger ice. The effects from that natural occurrence bottomed out in 2007.

Kwok et al say this about the Variability of Fram Strait ice flux:

The average winter area flux over the 18-year record (1978–1996) is 670,000 km2, ;7% of the area of the Arctic Ocean. The winter area flux ranges from a minimum of 450,000 km2 in 1984 to a maximum of 906,000 km2 in 1995. . .The average winter volume flux over the winters of October 1990 through May 1995 is 1745 km3 ranging from a low of 1375 km3 in the 1990 flux to a high of 2791 km3 in 1994.


Some complain it is too soon to say Arctic Ice is recovering, or that 2007 is a true change point.  The same people were quick to jump on a declining period after 1994 as evidence of a “Death Spiral.”

Update September 25, 2018

Oh the irony!  Tamino accuses me of emulating Michael Mann and “hiding the decline” of sea ice, as opposed to temperatures.  In that case, where is my Nobel Prize?

But my humble efforts to tell the truth pale in comparison with Mann’s campaign to erase the medieval warm period.  His temperature trickery is described in Rise and Fall of the Modern Warming Spike


No one knows what will happen to Arctic ice.

Except maybe the polar bears.

And they are not talking.

Except, of course, to the admen from Coca-Cola


  1. Hifast · September 22, 2018

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.


  2. Pingback: Arctic Sea Ice Much More Stable Than Thought - The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)
  3. oldbrew · September 23, 2018

    Always remember that 1979 was at, or close to, a high point in Arctic sea ice in the 20th Century. In other words, the seasonal ice average had to increase for many years to reach the 1979 level.


  4. cognog2 · September 24, 2018

    Seems these ice flux figures pour a lot of cold water (aka: ice) on the disappearing arctic ice meme; so is exacerbating the severe cognitive dissonance suffered by the warmists.
    I suspect there will be a bevy of MSM articles peddling the old meme again soon. Can’t have reality mucking up the consensus can we? (sarc.


  5. Pingback: Analysis suggests Arctic sea ice is more stable than thought | Watts Up With That?
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  8. James · September 25, 2018

    All well and good, but only looking at the yearly mean ignores the fact that summer ice extent is falling more dramatically. You do mention the age of the ice, but it is important to note that old (multiyear) ice is more resilient than single year ice and the flushing event was very unusual. The idea that an ice free summer is on it’s way is not overstated, just look at the infrastructure development along the northeast passage to support prospective shipping traffic. This reduction of ice will allow the sun to further heat the water and impact the seasonal cycle. These changes are already affecting the ecosystem and more work needs to be done to understand the implications- check out the Arctic PRIZE project. Cheers!


    • Ron Clutz · September 25, 2018

      James, an ice-free arctic has been predicted several times to happen before now. But since 2007 there has been a plateau in Arctic sea ice extent, even including the Great Cyclone year 2012.


  9. Pingback: Arctic Sea Ice Much More Stable Than Thought | PSI Intl

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