During the melting season I'm writing (bi-)weekly updates on the current situation with regards to Arctic sea ice (ASI). Central to these updates are the daily Cryosphere Today sea ice area (SIA) and IJIS sea ice extent (SIE) numbers, which I compare to data from the 2005-2014 period (NSIDC has a good explanation of sea ice extent and area in their FAQ). I also look at other things like regional sea ice area, compactness, temperature and weather forecasts, anything of particular interest.
July 7th 2015
I wanted to wait for the latest PIOMAS update and do another melt pond analysis for June, but given the current circumstances and the forecast I've decided to squeeze this ASI update in first.
As we've seen in previous ASI updates this melting season hasn't had a flying start, but it hasn't been as slow as 2013 and 2014 either. With extent going low real fast, but area lagging behind, the compactness numbers indicated little melt pond formation and no divergence to speak of. Melt ponds - and to a lesser extent openings within the ice pack - are important because they lower the ice pack's albedo and soak up a lot of sunlight, preconditioning the ice for further melting. This melting momentum, as I call it, can play a decisive role in the latter half of the melting season, trumping weather conditions.
Of course, weather still plays a very significant role in the final outcome of a melting season. This year hasn't seen any substantial preconditioning and is more similar to rebound years 2013 and 2014 than record years 2012, 2007 and 2011. In fact, this year has been very much like last year, in the sense that there is hardly any movement. Very little ice is transported through Fram Strait to the North Atlantic ice graveyard, and there is no compaction or divergence to speak of because of a lack of strong winds. Most of the extent/area decrease is caused by so-called in situ melting, or melting on the spot.
However, there is one big difference compared to last year and that's heat. Despite a very cold start, there have been several outbreaks of warm air over the ice, slowly but radically shifting the balance between extent and area data. The impact is felt on the surface of the ice pack, but doesn't translate directly into a decrease. Not yet. In theory, it should percolate through after a while, especially if the heat persists. And right now the Arctic sea ice pack is undergoing a massive heat wave which shows no signs of letting up.
More on what has happened and what is going to happen below.
Sea ice area (SIA)
Big drops have been alternating with small upticks, keeping the trend line near the upper half of the pack, but below that of 2013 and 2014.