Satellite-observed trends in the Arctic sea ice concentration for the period 1979–2016

Abstract

Arctic sea ice cover has decreased dramatically over the last three decades. This study quantifies the sea ice concentration (SIC) trends in the Arctic Ocean over the period of 1979–2016 and analyzes their spatial and temporal variations. During each month the SIC trends are negative over the Arctic Ocean, wherein the largest (smallest) rate of decline found in September (March) is -0.48%/a (-0.10%/a). The summer (-0.42%/a) and autumn (-0.31%/a) seasons show faster decrease rates than those of winter (-0.12%/a) and spring (-0.20%/a) seasons. Regional variability is large in the annual SIC trend. The largest SIC trends are observed for the Kara (-0.60%/a) and Barents Seas (-0.54%/a), followed by the Chukchi Sea (-0.48%/a), East Siberian Sea (-0.43%/a), Laptev Sea (-0.38%/a), and Beaufort Sea (-0.36%/a). The annual SIC trend for the whole Arctic Ocean is -0.26%/a over the same period. Furthermore, the infl uences and feedbacks between the SIC and three climate indexes and three climatic parameters, including the Arctic Oscillation (AO), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Dipole anomaly (DA), sea surface temperature (SST), surface air temperature (SAT), and surface wind (SW), are investigated. Statistically, sea ice provides memory for the Arctic climate system so that changes in SIC driven by the climate indices (AO, NAO and DA) can be felt during the ensuing seasons. Positive SST trends can cause greater SIC reductions, which is observed in the Greenland and Barents Seas during the autumn and winter. In contrast, the removal of sea ice (i.e., loss of the insulating layer) likely contributes to a colder sea surface (i.e., decreased SST), as is observed in northern Barents Sea. Decreasing SIC trends can lead to an in-phase enhancement of SAT, while SAT variations seem to have a lagged infl uence on SIC trends. SW plays an important role in the modulating SIC trends in two ways: by transporting moist and warm air that melts sea ice in peripheral seas (typically evident inthe Barents Sea) and by exporting sea ice out of the Arctic Ocean via passages into the Greenland and Barents Seas, including the Fram Strait, the passage between Svalbard and Franz Josef Land (S-FJL), and the passage between Franz Josef Land and Severnaya Zemlya (FJL-SZ).

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Acknowledgement

Thanks are given to the National Snow and Ice Data Center for providing the sea ice concentration data. The sea surface temperature (SST), air temperature, V-wind and U-wind data were obtained from the NOAA/OAR/ESRL PSD, Boulder, Colorado, USA. Thanks to Professor WU Bingyi of Fudan University for providing Dipole Anomaly (DA) data. It is thankful for the insightful comments from the two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Haibo Bi or Haijun Huang.

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Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41406215), the NSFC-Shandong Joint Fund for Marine Science Research Centers (No. U1606401), the Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, the Postdoctoral Science Foundation of China (No. 2014M561971), the Open Funds for the Key Laboratory of Marine Geology and Environment, Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. MGE2013KG07), and the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province of China (No. BK20140186)

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Wang, Y., Bi, H., Huang, H. et al. Satellite-observed trends in the Arctic sea ice concentration for the period 1979–2016. J. Ocean. Limnol. 37, 18–37 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00343-019-7284-0

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Keyword

  • sea ice concentration (SIC)
  • Arctic Ocean
  • surface air temperature (SAT)
  • sea surface temperature (SST)
  • surface wind (SW)
  • interannual and decadal oscillation