With a slightly above average drop during July 2016 is maintaining its position relative to other years. Although the monthly decrease was smaller than most years of the past decade, the difference with 2012 went down from 1136 to 924 km3. The difference with 2014 went up by a large margin, from 1218 to 1977 km3, but the difference with 2015 was almost halved, from 1852 to 1020 km3. This was to be expected, of course, as melting conditions during July 2015 were perfect (see last year's PIOMAS update).
Here's how the differences with previous years have evolved from last month:
2016 is currently 4th lowest, after 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Wipneus' version of the PIOMAS volume graph clearly shows this year's steady drop, closely following the 2010 and 2011 trails:
Last month I speculated whether whether the trend line on the PIOMAS sea ice volume anomaly graph would drop some more and leave the light grey band like it did in 2010, 2011 and 2012, but there has been an uptick instead taking the trend line back to 'just' 1 standard deviation territory:
Looking at Wipneus' comparison maps that show the differences with 2010, 2011, and 2012, we can see that the main difference lies still on the Siberian side of the Arctic (red means ice is thicker there now, blue the opposite):
There is a lot of melting potential in the East Siberian Sea region, extending into the Central Arctic, that could make this year end up close to the 2011 minimum, which is second lowest after the 2012 record lowest minimum. Here's a close-up of that region on the latest Uni Bremen sea ice concentration map:
As for average thickness, here's the PIJAMAS graph based on my crude calculation of PIOMAS volume numbers divided by total JAXA sea ice extent:
2016 is definitely following the path of other post-2010 melting seasons, from which 2014 and 2015 deviated. Interestingly, the trend line follows that of 2013 quite closely. Perhaps this is because the 2013 melting season was also characterized by a series of cyclones that dispersed the ice pack. It could just as easily be coincidence, of course.
On the thickness plot from the Polar Science Center: the distance between 2013 and 2016 is somewhat larger, but here too the 2016 trend line is more or less following the path of other post-2010 melting seasons that marked the new volume regime:
As with other metrics, it will be interesting to see whether this year can end up in the top 3 lowest volume minimums somewhere next month. Remember, after a spectacular start to the melting season, things slowed down due to a switch in weather conditions. Only now has high pressure returned to the Arctic (more on that in the next ASI update), but it has been mostly low pressure since May, which means cloudy skies. A lack of melting momentum has been compensated, however, by early melting of the land snow cover and exceptionally high SSTs across the Arctic. And so 2016 can still match big melt years like 2007 and 2011.
I can't escape the feeling that the Arctic sea ice has dodged a bullet this year. And if the Arctic sea ice dodges a bullet, so do we. That's the good news. The bad news is that there will inevitably be more bullets. The bullets aren't the problem. It's the gun.