Abundant August Arctic Ice with 2022 Minimum Outlook



The images above come from AARI (Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute) St. Petersburg, Russia. Note how the location of remaining ice at start of August varies greatly from year to year.  The marginal seas are open water, including the Pacific basins, Canadian Bays (Hudson and Baffin), and the Atlantic basins for the most part.  Note ice extent fluctuations especially in Eurasian seas (lower right) and in Can-Am seas (upper right).  As discussed later on, other regions retain considerable ice at the annual minimum, with differences year to year. [Note:  Images prior to 2008 are in a different format.  AARI Charts are (here)

The annual competition between ice and water in the Arctic ocean is approaching the maximum for water, which typically occurs mid September.  After that, diminishing energy from the slowly setting sun allows oceanic cooling causing ice to regenerate. Those interested in the dynamics of Arctic sea ice can read numerous posts here.  This post provides a look at mid August from 2007 to yesterday as a context for anticipating this year’s annual minimum.  Note that for climate purposes the annual minimum is measured by the September monthly average ice extent, since the daily extents vary and will go briefly lowest on or about day 260. In a typical year the overall ice extent will end September slightly higher than at the beginning.

The melting season mid July to mid August shows 2022 melted slower than average and the month end extents were much higher than average.


Firstly note that on average this period shows ice declining 2.3M km2 down to 5.9M km2. But 2022 started slightly higher and on day 227 was 273k km2 above average. The decline in Sea Ice Index in orange  was somewhat lower during the period. The table for day 227 show how large are the 2022 surpluses and how the ice is distributed across the various seas comprising the Arctic Ocean.   The surplus this year over 2020 is more than 1 Wadham (1M km2 ice extent).

Region 2022227 Day 227 Average 2022-Ave. 2020227 2022-2020
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 6189078 5916128 272950 5162062 1027016
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 887005 713937 173069 838854 48151
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 494679 425089 69591 410757 83922
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 609573 566607 42966 276845 332728
 (4) Laptev_Sea 291275 234785 56490 24033 267241
 (5) Kara_Sea 60113 97484 -37371 22002 38111
 (6) Barents_Sea 0 25520 -25520 3285 -3285
 (7) Greenland_Sea 227813 229100 -1288 265814 -38001
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 135675 53150 82525 12720 122955
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 388671 420628 -31957 366453 22218
 (10) Hudson_Bay 19911 70416 -50505 53142 -33232
 (11) Central_Arctic 3070974 3078423 -7450 2887486 183487

The main deficit to average is in Hudson Bay, with smaller lossed in CAA, Kara and Barents seas, overcome by surpluses almost everywhere, especially in BCE (Beaufort, Chukchi, East Siberian seas), as well as Laptev and Baffin Bay.  And as discussed below, the marginal basins have little ice left to lose.

The Bigger Picture 

We are close to the annual Arctic ice extent minimum, which typically occurs on or about day 260 (mid September). Some take any year’s slightly lower minimum as proof that Arctic ice is dying, but the image above shows the Arctic heart is beating clear and strong.

Over this decade, the Arctic ice minimum has not declined, but since 2007 looks like fluctuations around a plateau. By mid-September, all the peripheral seas have turned to water, and the residual ice shows up in a few places. The table below indicates where we can expect to find ice this September. Numbers are area units of Mkm2 (millions of square kilometers).

Day 260 15 year
Arctic Regions 2007 2010 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 Average
Central Arctic Sea 2.67 3.16 2.98 2.93 2.92 3.07 2.91 2.97 2.50 2.95 2.90
BCE 0.50 1.08 1.38 0.89 0.52 0.84 1.16 0.46 0.65 1.55 0.89
LKB 0.29 0.24 0.19 0.05 0.28 0.26 0.02 0.11 0.01 0.13 0.15
Greenland & CAA 0.56 0.41 0.55 0.46 0.45 0.52 0.41 0.36 0.59 0.50 0.47
B&H Bays 0.03 0.03 0.02 0.10 0.03 0.07 0.05 0.01 0.02 0.04 0.03
NH Total 4.05 4.91 5.13 4.44 4.20 4.76 4.56 3.91 3.77 5.17 4.44

The table includes two early years of note along with the last 8 years compared to the 15 year average for five contiguous arctic regions. BCE (Beaufort, Chukchi and East Siberian) on the Asian side are quite variable as the largest source of ice other than the Central Arctic itself.   Greenland Sea and CAA (Canadian Arctic Archipelago) together hold almost 0.5M km2 of ice at annual minimum, fairly consistently.  LKB are the European seas of Laptev, Kara and Barents, a smaller source of ice, but a difference maker some years, as Laptev was in 2016.  Baffin and Hudson Bays are inconsequential as of day 260.

For context, note that the average maximum has been 15M, so on average the extent shrinks to 30% of the March high before growing back the following winter.  In this context, it is foolhardy to project any summer minimum forward to proclaim the end of Arctic ice.

Resources:  Climate Compilation II Arctic Sea Ice

via Science Matters


August 16, 2022 at 04:41PM

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