This post is about global sea ice area, the simple addition of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice area.
As a statistic it's somewhat interesting, but it doesn't convey all that much information about the individual health of both polar regions,
let alone their sub-regions.
Despite this fact, or probably because of it, it's often being touted by climate risk deniers as proof that global warming is a scam and all is well, because Arctic sea ice loss is compensated by a growth in Antarctic sea ice. Even if this were true - it isn't, as this Skeptical Science article explains - it's like saying there is no hunger in the world because there are so many obese people.
But anyway, we're approaching that time of year when global sea ice area as calculated by and presented at Cryosphere Today is going to hit its minimum, or lowest amount of sea ice cover. And currently the number is quite low, as can be seen on this graph from Piotr Djaków's Pogoda i Klimat website:
According to the data 2016 is already 4th lowest at 14.73 million km2, just behind 2007's minimum, and almost 350K behind 2011 and record holder 2006 (14.39 million km2, the grey trend line just below the 2011 green trend line). Below I'll discuss the factors that will determine whether a new record is in the books.
An absolute prerequisite for a new record is for Antarctic sea ice area to go low. Whereas it's freezing in the Arctic right now, it's summer in the Southern Hemisphere and so the Antarctic melting season is slowly moving towards its apogee. If we look at the NSIDC sea ice extent graph for March, for instance, we can see some fairly large swings, with record years 2006 and 2011 standing out with their distinct dips:
It looks like this year will go very low as well. Currently the NSIDC daily sea ice extent map shows that in many regions ice cover is smaller than the 1981-2010 median, especially in the Ross Sea:
This is also reflected on the Cryosphere Today sea ice area anomaly chart, with quite a spectacular drop off the cliff of high anomalies that have marked Antarctic sea ice in recent years (disproving global warming, remember ;-) ):
If we look at Cryosphere Today's latest map of Antarctic sea ice, there is clearly more ice loss to be expected in the next few weeks (see white circles):
It looks like the absolute prerequisite for a potential global sea ice area record minimum will be met, and so it's all down to the Arctic.
Well, currently sea ice area is relatively low there as well:This is mostly because sea ice cover is low again this year on the Pacific side of the Arctic, as can be seen on Wipneus' regional graphs for the Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk:
And, of course, with all those cyclones funnelling wind and warm temperatures into the Arctic from the Atlantic side, sea ice area is relatively low in the Barentsz Sea too, and I've added Baffin Bay because of a surprising dip in sea ice area recently (probably storm-related as well):
Because of a North Pacific low-pressure area sea ice in the Bering and Okhotsk Seas could be blown southwards, with leads freezing up in its wake, causing a rapid spurt in sea ice area, like happened at the end of the 2010 freezing season. However, this could very well be compensated by some more anomalously high temperatures in the coming few days, as shown on these GFS models temp anomaly forecast maps from Climate Reanalyzer:
Of course, a 4-day forecast for the Arctic doesn't tell us much about the chances of global sea ice area hitting a record low, but last year saw a very early and low minimum in the Arctic, and the record could well have been broken if it weren't for Antarctic sea ice area being relatively high. This year, however, Antarctic sea ice area is low for the time of year, as is Arctic sea ice area, and so a new record is a distinct possibility.
We'll know more in a few weeks, and in case of a new record, it will be interesting to see how fake skeptics will deny their own argument, if they're not too busy playing down record global temperatures. But anyone can see the increasingly wild swings since 2000 on Cryosphere Today's global sea ice area anomaly graph that tell us that something is out of whack: