Weather conditions in the past month - the (Great?) Arctic Cyclone followed by the Mega-Dipole to be precise - have left a mark on volume decrease. During August 2016 more sea ice volume was lost than during any other August in the past decade, with the exception of 2008, even more than during August 2012 (2909 km3 vs 2744 km3). Just like on the area and extent graphs, 2016 is almost in second position here too, as the difference with 2011 shrunk from 621 km3 to 84 km3.
Here's how the differences with previous years have evolved from last month:
Last month I wrote:
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.
We now know that melting has been massive in this region, as can be seen on this Uni Bremen SIC maps animation, showing the spectacular changes from August 2nd to September 2nd, the main reason for the significant volume drop:
Wipneus' version of the PIOMAS volume graph also clearly shows that this year's trend line dropped a bit faster, breezed past 2010 and is now almost at a par with 2011:
And so there's a small downtick again on the PIOMAS sea ice volume anomaly graph, which shows how much actual sea ice volume deviates from the linear trend, but not down to 2 standard deviation territory:
2016 perfectly follows the new volume regime that started in 2010 and was interrupted during 2014 and 2015. The exact same can be seen on the thickness plot from the Polar Science Center:
So, can 2011 still be overtaken in the one or two weeks left in this melting season? 2011 reached the minimum on the earliest date in the past decade (September 10th) at 4302 km2. Sea ice volume is currently 4638 km3, so second place is definitely possible, but not easy, as in the past decade only 2008 and 2014 managed to lose the 336 km3 required until the minimum was hit. Added to that: the weather forecasts look like this melting season could end somewhat earlier, also given all that dispersed ice on the Pacific side of the Arctic, in what is now known as the Wrangel Arm.
But this also depends on how much longer bottom melt continues. Sea surface temperatures are really high, and this year is ending low, regardless of weather conditions it seems. Remember, during June and July very little sunshine reached the Arctic sea ice pack to create melt ponds and build up momentum for the remainder of the melting season. This was the kind of weather that made 2013 and 2014 stall, and prevented 2015 from going lower than it did.
Not this year, though. This year another kind of momentum carried things forward despite the weather. A mild winter, early opening up, extreme low snow cover, probably caused the Arctic to soak up enough heat to not care about the June and July sun. And who knows, maybe a pulse of warm water - extremely difficult to measure - from the Atlantic and Pacific continued the long-term process of complete Arctic sea ice loss.
The world hasn't experienced the warmest average global temperatures on record for three years in a row for nothing. This heat eventually ends up in the Arctic.