I started writing this blog post almost two weeks ago, initially wanting to call it Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, as a logical follow-up to the event that I described as Mad Max last year. Max refers to the maximum Arctic sea ice cover that is usually reached around this time. It's Mad when the record gets smashed to bits. And it's Beyond Thunderdome when it gets smashed to bits after it got smashed to bits last year.
The thing is that a max record is only smashed to bits in one of the two daily updated datasets I follow with spreadsheets. Hence my retreat to the title of the first Mad Max sequel (hat-tip to commenter Taras Zelenchuk). Mind you, I'm not calling the max, as preliminary peaks may still be topped in the next week or two. However, it will take some extreme weather conditions for Cryosphere Today sea ice area to go up 400K and surpass the 2011 record:So, barring some extremely cold and windy weather, it looks highly likely that the CT SIA lowest maximum record has been broken, and if the preliminary peak of 12.843 million km2 remains standing, it will be the 2nd earliest max in the 2006-2016 period as well (together with 2007). Last year the max was reached at the astonishingly early date of February 16th, but it was still 130K higher than the 2011 record low max.
When it comes to JAXA sea ice extent (formerly known as IJIS SIE, but now provided by ADS-NIPR), 2015 was both the earliest and lowest on record by far, the first max to stay under 14 million km2. This year's preliminary peak, reached on February 29th, has so far stayed below 14 million km2 too, but is just 16K higher than last year's record, a statistical tie (and still a whopping 170K below the next lowest max from 2011). JAXA SIE has dropped 166K since the preliminary peak was reached, still in second place behind 2015:
As said, whether the preliminary peaks for both CT SIA and JAXA SIE remain standing, depends on the weather. The ice edge is further back than average on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Arctic, as shown on the NSIDC's Sea Ice Index extent map:
Just how little ice there is in the Barentsz and Bering Seas compared to earlier years can be seen on these regional sea ice extent maps provided by Wipneus, with the Okhotsk Sea being the only region where there is a substantial amount of ice compared to the recent past:
Now that some anomalously low temperatures are finally finding their way into the Arctic, a cold snap in the Bering Sea combined with strong northerly winds could cause a surge in (thin) ice formation like we saw in 2014. I'm basing myself on this GFS temperature anomaly forecast for the coming week, as put out by the University of Maine's Climate Reanalyzer:
Whether this will be enough for extent and area to shoot up on the Bering Sea graphs, remains to be seen. It hasn't happened so far, as things simply seem too 'warm' this year - relatively speaking - for rapid ice growth along the edges. But you never know.
However, if nothing much comes of it, I think it will be safe to call the max after the weekend. Don't expect me to do it though. ;-)