The minimum was reached in September for modelled sea ice volume as well, and 2016 came in third, just behind 2011 (99 km3 difference) and well behind 2012 (728 km3). In the meantime, despite the early date of minimum and the rapid increase in extent that followed it, 2016 caught up with 2011 a bit and they are practically at a par at the end of September. 2016 clearly belongs in the 2010-2012 group and is much lower than the years preceding that period and the rebound years that followed 2012.
Here's how the differences with previous years have evolved from last month:
And here are the numbers and bar graph that show how this year's total melt stacked up against other years. It is 5th highest, bearing in mind that maximum sea ice volume was second lowest on record back in April after a mild winter, with total accumulation being third lowest in the 2006-2016 record:
Wipneus' version of the PIOMAS volume graph also shows how this year's trend line almost dropped as low as 2011, and has been on a par ever since:
Of course, the trend line on the PIOMAS sea ice volume anomaly graph is still well below the linear trend, in the lower range of the 1 standard deviation zone:
When extent increases as fast as it did in the last two-three weeks of September, it usually means that it's mostly very thin ice that is forming at the edges of the ice pack. The PIJAMAS graph, based on my crude calculation of PIOMAS volume numbers divided by total JAXA sea ice extent, is showing that this is the case, with average thickness going lowest for a while and still being quite low at the end of September:
The thickness plot from the Polar Science Center is showing something similar:
This month Wipneus' comparison maps are even more interesting than they have been all melting season. I've picked out the comparison with the 2011 and 2012 Septembers (red means ice is thicker there now, blue the opposite):
I see two things. First of all, the dark red in the channels of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago compared to 2011 and 2012. That's because this year we witnessed again the phenomenon of thick multi-year ice being pushed south (see the 2016 melting season in images blog post). This ice is basically done for in years to come. On the whole, ice is not getting thicker or older.
Second, and more importantly, there's this big red blob alongside the Atlantic side of the Arctic. This is the ice that dodged the bullet this year (and explains the difference with the 2011 and 2012 minimums), but alas, it will likely prove to be a Pyrrhic victory, as this ice is perfectly poised for transport to the Barentsz and Greenland Seas over winter.
Unless this coming winter proves to be exceptionally cold, the ice pack is likely to remain near the low levels of the post-2010 period. Of course, it all depends on conditions. Will the extremely high global temperatures affect the Arctic and keep temps as high as they have been this year so far (except for June, July and August), as shown on this image provided by Zachary Labe:
As the Sun shifts away from the top of the Northern Hemisphere, we wait and see what winter has in store for our Arctic. I would like to wish it well, but that's not something one says to a terminally ill patient. I'll say it nevertheless: