Last month I made a comparison of CryoSat-2 sea ice volume distribution maps for the 2015/2016 Winter analysis, but it was off because the dates didn't exactly match. Better images have emerged during this year's General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (more on that later this week):
These images come from a poster that was presented at EGU2016 by Dr. Robert Ricker from the Alfred Wegener Institute. This poster, as well as some stunning images of the Arctic, is included in the latest AWI press release, which followed Thursday's Sea ice decline in the Arctic press conference at EGU2016 by Dr. Marcel Nicolaus (also from AWI):
The Arctic is facing a decline in sea ice that might equal the negative record of 2012
Data collected by the CryoSat-2 satellite reveal large amounts of thin ice that are unlikely to survive the summer
Sea ice physicists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), are anticipating that the sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean this summer may shrink to the record low of 2012. The scientists made this projection after evaluating current satellite data about the thickness of the ice cover. The data show that the Arctic sea ice was already extraordinarily thin in the summer of 2015. Comparably little new ice formed during the past winter. Today Dr Marcel Nicolaus, expert on sea ice, has presented these findings at a press conference during the annual General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna.
I attended the press conference and was surprised to see such an accurate and actual portrayal of current conditions in the Arctic. Usually these scientific press conferences are about things that are behind us, like the previous melting season or some such. But Dr. Nicolaus jumped right into it, discussing the temperature readings from buoys in the Arctic that showed the North Pole experienced temps above 0 °C at the end of December, after which he discussed the latest CryoSat-2 results.
Quite a bit of sea ice volume was indeed lost during last year's melting season (see this prescient guest article I wrote for John Abraham's Climate Consensus - the 97% blog on the Guardian website) and after a record warm/non-cold winter, the ice pack's overall thickness looks similar to that of March 2012. Regional differences with 2012 are displayed on this comparison map (red means more ice now than in 2012, blue the opposite):
And here's a graph that shows how this year's thickness may very well match that of 2012 and 2013 when the max is reached (data running up to Mid-February, max usually reached around mid-April). This graph is a combination of CryoSat-2 and SMOS sea ice thickness data, as described in Kaleschke et al. (2015):
These images are based on data that is collected at Meereisportal.de, a website that has been around for a while, but has an English counterpart now as well: Seaiceportal.de. Dr. Marcel Nicoalus presented the website through a separate poster at EGU2016:
We are providing near-real time and archive data of many key parameters of sea ice and its snow cover. The data sets result from measurements acquired by various platforms as well as numerical simulations. Satellite observations of sea ice concentration, freeboard, thickness and drift are available as gridded data sets. Sea ice and snow temperatures and thickness as well as atmospheric parameters are available from autonomous platforms (buoys). Additional ship observations, ice station measurements, and mooring timeseries are compiled as data collections over the last decade. In parallel, we are continuously extending our meta-data and uncertainty information for all data sets. In addition to the data portal, seaiceportal.de provides general comprehensive background information on sea ice and snow as well as expert statements on recent observations and developments. This content is mostly in German in order to complement the various existing international sites for the German speaking public. We will present the portal, its content and function, but we are also asking for direct user feedback.
The portal definitely has lots of interesting data and maps, and I'll be adding some of them to the Arctic Sea Ice Graphs page as soon as this blog post is published. But the most interesting of all are, of course, the monthly CryoSat-2 sea ice thickness distribution maps, which are a welcome addition to the wonderful near-real time thickness maps on the UCL Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling website that came on-line last year, as their archive is a bit of a mess.
Dr. Robert Ricker's sea ice thickness distribution maps at the start of this blog post are visually stunning, but the colour palette makes it a bit difficult to spot the differences, and so I've downloaded the February CryoSat maps from Seaiceportal.de and put them all together:
Clearly not a lot more ice right now than in 2012 and 2013, and weather conditions will determine whether the coming melting season will follow 2012's path or 2013's path. But a large patch of thicker ice (yellow), positioned right in front of the Fram Strait exit, is already being pushed towards those warmer Atlantic waters, as we speak. So, it will take some extremely cold and cloudy weather to prevent another volume drop.
This seems highly unlikely given the warm winter, warm conditions as we enter the melting season, and global temperature records being set/smashed for a while to come. But you never know, one can always hope...