Now we start the slow slide into the Arctic Ice Minimum, likely sometime in September.
It is important to point out that there’s a lot of ice up there, and as illustrated by the images below, the losses at ICEmax are at the periphery, not at the core.
What I find curious is the fact that NSDIC’s opening statement (below) in the press release has these words: “Arctic sea ice extent” but if you look at the NSIDC provided plot above, you’ll note that they include normal lines (in orange) for areas that are outside of the Arctic circle. While perhaps a small point, it does speak to accuracy in reporting. For example, I really don’t see how sea ice off the north coast of Newfoundland can be considered “Arctic” when it doesn’t even come close to being within the Arctic Circle.
[Update: Dr. Walt Meier of NSIDC in an email agrees that the orange boundaries are “somewhat arbitrary” and has agreed to explore a “what if” question for me. I hope to have a plot from him using Arctic circle as a boundary in a couple of weeks to see if there is any significant difference – Anthony]
It’s also important to note that this NSDIC claim only represents data from a 30 year satellite record, not the all time ice record, which is spotty and incomplete. From historical anecdotes, it appears the Arctic has gone through periods of reduced ice in the past. While NSIDC claims the maximum to be a tie with the 2006-2007 period on their plot (see their press release below), I’ll point out that NANSEN’s plot, using the same SSMI sensor platform, shows it nowhere near the 2007 value at present, though there was an intersection in the month of February:
In fact, NSIDC claims the maximum was reached on March 7th, but as we see in the NANSEN plot above, the ice continues to grow as late as 3/23 when that plot was produced. This discrepancy between two organizations that use the SSMI data is curious. However, the JAXA AMSRE data does seem to support NSIDC’s claim.
More live plots are available on the WUWT Sea Ice Page
Here’s NSIDC’s announcement:
Annual maximum ice extent reached
Arctic sea ice extent appeared to reach its maximum extent for the year on March 7, marking the beginning of the melt season. This year’s maximum tied for the lowest in the satellite record. NSIDC will release a detailed analysis of 2010 to 2011 winter sea ice conditions during the second week of April.
Figure 1. Arctic sea ice extent on March 7 was 14.64 million square kilometers (5.65 million square miles). The orange line shows the 1979 to 2000 median extent for that day. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole. Sea Ice Index data. About the data.
—Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center
Overview of conditions
On March 7, 2011, Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.64 million square kilometers (5.65 million square miles). The maximum extent was 1.2 million square kilometers (471,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average of 15.86 million square kilometers (6.12 million square miles), and equal (within 0.1%) to 2006 for the lowest maximum extent in the satellite record.
Figure 2. The graph above shows daily Arctic sea ice extent as of March 22, 2011, along with daily ice extents for 2006, which had the previous lowest maximum extent, and 2007, the year with the lowest minimum extent in September. Light blue indicates 2011, green shows 2007, light green shows 2006, and dark gray shows the 1979 to 2000 average. The gray area around the average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. Sea Ice Index data.
—Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center
Conditions in context
As of March 22, ice extent has declined for five straight days. However there is still a chance that the ice extent could expand again. Sea ice extent in February and March tends to be quite variable, because ice near the edge is thin and often quite dispersed. The thin ice is highly sensitive to weather, moving or melting quickly in response to changing winds and temperatures, and it often oscillates near the maximum extent for several days or weeks, as it has done this year.
Since the start of the satellite record in 1979, the maximum Arctic sea ice extent has occurred as early as February 18 and as late as March 31, with an average date of March 6.