Arctic sea ice reaches minimum extent for 2014

Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its minimum for 2014, according to preliminary figures from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in the US.

The extent dropped to 5.02 million square kilometres (1.94 million square miles) on 17 September, making it the 6th lowest extent observed since satellite observations became available in 1979.

This year’s minimum is above the 2012 record low extent of 3.41 million square kilometres (1.32 million square miles), but still below the long term (1981-2010) average of 6.22 million square kilometres (2.4 million square miles).

Graph shows Arctic sea ice extent at 17 September 2014 along with daily ice extent for four previous years. Source: National Snow and Ice Data Centre

Graph shows Arctic sea ice extent at 17 September 2014 along with daily ice extent for four previous years. Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center

There is a lot of year to year variability in the Arctic ice extent, as it depends on the Arctic weather.

As the ice cover thins we expect the variability in cover to increase as larger regions of the Arctic become vulnerable to being blown by the wind or melting away completely over the summer.

Overall, the long term trend in ice cover remains downward, as illustrated by the below plot of August ice extents.

Earlier this month in the Laptev Sea, a small portion of the ice edge was within 5 degrees of the North Pole – this is the most northerly position that the ice edge has reached in this region since satellite observations began.

This year the Northern Sea Route has opened to shipping for the seventh year in succession, but the North-West Passage through the Canadian Archipelago remains blocked by ice – emphasising how Arctic summer sea-ice cover depends on the prevailing weather patterns.

The exact date on which the minimum ice extent occurs varies from year to year, depending on the weather conditions along the ice edge. The 1981-2010 average is 15th September, and the latest date so far in the records has been 23rd September.

Graph shows August Arctic sea ice extent for each year since records began as a % difference to the long-term (1981-2010) average for the month. Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Graph shows August Arctic sea ice extent for each year since records began as a % difference to the long-term (1981-2010) average for the month. Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Future of Arctic sea ice

Based on projections from current climate models, a plausible date for the earliest ice free (defined as extent less than 1 million square kilometres) summer in the Arctic would be 2025-2030.

Work continues to improve our understanding of the processes driving the ice decline and how they are represented in climate models. This may lead to revised projections of the date for an ice-free summer in the Arctic.

Impacts on UK weather

Changes in the Arctic ice cover have the potential to influence the weather further afield, by changing atmospheric circulation pattern outside the Arctic.

There is some evidence that low ice cover at the end of the summer can drive easterly winds across Europe, particularly in winter, potentially resulting in anomalously cold conditions.

The relative importance of sea ice conditions and other factors in generating cold conditions in the UK is an active research area for the Met office.

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18 Responses to Arctic sea ice reaches minimum extent for 2014

  1. xmetman says:

    It would have been quite interesting, and even more news worthy, if you had also made mention of the current record levels of Antarctic sea ice at the moment.

    I mention it in this blog I posted last week:

    http://xmetman.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/antarctic-sea-ice-exceeds-20-million-square-kilometers/

    • cesium62 says:

      Well, gosh, the Antarctic weather doesn’t affect the UK quite as much as the Arctic weather, so maybe the Antarctic isn’t quite as newsworthy.

      But yes, global warming is melting Anarctic glaciers, freshening the surrounding waters, and raising the temperature at which the ice freezes. Big changes are happening up North, big changes are happening down South. Doesn’t look good.

  2. nuwurld says:

    And what about the Antarctic Met?

    What about the positive global sea ice anomaly?

    • jsam says:

      You spotted the 2% gain and missed the 98% loss.

      The earth is losing a trillion tons of ice per year:

      – 159 Gt Antarctic land ice, McMillan el al, GRL (2014)
      + 26 Gt Antarctic sea ice, Holland et al, J Climate (2014)
      – 261 Gt Arctic sea ice, PIOMAS
      – 378 Gt Greenland, Enderlin et al, GRL (2014)
      – 259 Gt other land based glaciers, Gardner et al. Science (2013)

      – 1,031 Gt, total

  3. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on the WeatherAction News Blog and commented:
    Hopefully a piece on the record sea ice on the other side of the world is also in the offing.

  4. jbenton2013 says:

    This just confirms the trend towards increased Arctic ice which has been evident since last years massive increase. Taken together with the record levels of Anctarctic ice, curiously not mentioned in this article, it shows that the climate models are totally useless and not fit for purpose.

    • cesium62 says:

      There’s this thing called weather. You may have heard of it? Or do you assume every time there’s a rainstorm that it’s never going to end?

  5. jbenton2013 says:

    I see the MO are back to censoring comments again.

  6. Will you be following up to this article with one titled “Antarctic sea ice reaches record extent for 2014”, both show climate change, or rather climate extremes at both ends of the scale at the same time.

  7. jsam says:

    The earth is losing a trillion tons of ice per year:

    – 159 Gt Antarctic land ice, McMillan el al, GRL (2014)
    + 26 Gt Antarctic sea ice, Holland et al, J Climate (2014)
    – 261 Gt Arctic sea ice, PIOMAS
    – 378 Gt Greenland, Enderlin et al, GRL (2014)
    – 259 Gt other land based glaciers, Gardner et al. Science (2013)

    – 1,031 Gt, total

  8. Bob Smith says:

    Human activity is causing weather extremes at both poles, and inbetween. In Antarctica global warming is causing greater amounts of ice to calve off into the oceans, resulting in a record surge of freshwater and sea ice around Antarctica, with CFC induced ozone destruction causing winds around Antarctic to favor the spread of sea ice into unprecedented areas. Meanwhile at the at the Arctic pole, lacking an ice sheet, the heat from greenhouse gases has gone entirely into melting sea ice and warming the oceans resulting in a sea ice death spiral.

    • jbenton2013 says:

      Looks like you’ve swallowed the global warming propaganda hook line and sinker. Pity there’s no truth to any of your claims.

      • cesium62 says:

        But you agreed there were record extents of Antarctic sea ice. Guess we can safely conclude that you have no idea what you are talking about.

  9. They put salt on the roads to make the snow and ice melt. For sea water to freeze the temperature must be below minus 2 degrees Celsius. Melting freshwater from Antarctica will not freeze when it comes in contact with salt seawater.The explanation Bob Smith is giving for the record sea ice around Antarctica defies the laws of nature.

    • cesium62 says:

      ROFL. You’re funny. Melting freshwater is just above zero degrees Celsius. What do you think happens to it when it contacts salt water whose temperature is just above -2 C?

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