CryoSat shows Arctic sea ice volume up 50% from last year

Measurements from ESA’s CryoSat satellite show that the volume of Arctic sea ice has significantly increased this past autumn.

The volume of ice measured this autumn is about 50% higher compared to last year. In October 2013, CryoSat measured about 9000 cubic km of sea ice – a notable increase compared to 6000 cubic km in October 2012.

See animation: 


Over the last few decades, satellites have shown a downward trend in the area of Arctic Ocean covered by ice. However, the actual volume of sea ice has proven difficult to determine because it moves around and so its thickness can change.

CryoSat was designed to measure sea-ice thickness across the entire Arctic Ocean, and has allowed scientists, for the first time, to monitor the overall change in volume accurately.

About 90% of the increase is due to growth of multiyear ice – which survives through more than one summer without melting – with only 10% growth of first year ice. Thick, multiyear ice indicates healthy Arctic sea-ice cover.

This year’s multiyear ice is now on average about 20%, or around 30 cm, thicker than last year.

ESA’s ice mission

“One of the things we’d noticed in our data was that the volume of ice year-to-year was not varying anything like as much as the ice extent – at least in 2010, 2011 and 2012,” said Rachel Tilling from the UK’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, who led the study.

“We didn’t expect the greater ice extent left at the end of this summer’s melt to be reflected in the volume. But it has been, and the reason is related to the amount of multiyear ice in the Arctic.”

While this increase in ice volume is welcome news, it does not indicate a reversal in the long-term trend.

“It’s estimated that there was around 20 000 cubic kilometres of Arctic sea ice each October in the early 1980s, and so today’s minimum still ranks among the lowest of the past 30 years,” said Professor Andrew Shepherd from University College London, a co-author of the study.

The findings from a team of UK researchers at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling were presented last week at the American Geophysical Union’s autumn meeting in San Francisco, California.

“We are very pleased that we were able to present these results in time for the conference despite some technical problems we had with the satellite in October, which are now completely solved,” said Tommaso Parrinello, ESA’s CryoSat Mission Manager.

In October, CryoSat’s difficulties with its power system threatened the continuous supply of data, but normal operations resumed just over a week later.

With the seasonal freeze-up now underway, CryoSat will continue its routine measurement of sea ice. Over the coming months, the data will reveal just how much this summer’s increase has affected winter ice volumes.


Source: European Space Agency

For more data, see the WUWT Sea ice Reference page:

h/t to WUWT reader Larry Kirk


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“It’s estimated that there was around 20 000 cubic kilometres of Arctic sea ice each October in the early 1980s, and so today’s minimum still ranks among the lowest of the past 30 years,” said Professor Andrew Shepherd from University College London, a co-author of the study.
Right. He compares guesstimates against actual observations. Why doesn’t he try estimating how much sea ice there was in each October of the 1920s and 1930s?

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley

Katherine, that’s ‘science’ now!


Been checking Arctic ice every day at:
and noted many records of DECREASED ice. Today showed a loss of 441 square kilometres and yesterday only recorded an increase of 101 square kilometres. Average daily increase is usually around 50,000 square kilometres. Air temperatures are well below freezing and little to no sun so what is limiting the normal growth? In the link above is a pointer to Arctic winds and It looks to me whenever strong winds blow towards the ice the new ice is pushed back in top of the previous ice.
Just my layman’s conclusion but nice to now read about current Arctic sea ice volumes.

Thank you, Anthony.


Oh my – now what? As we all know there is no ice. All the models said so. The global warming fanatics said the Arctic is ice free and they have the models to prove their point. This will never do.

Larry Kirk

As background, Cryosat-2 was launched and finally commissioned in 2010 (after Cryosat-1 failed on launch in 2005), and so far has produced 4 years of comparable sea-ice volume data to October 2013.
To my way of thinking this is the first and only reliable Arctic sea ice VOLUME data we have ever had (aside from 3 months of comparable, though less extensive satellite synthetic aperture radar coverage from the ill-fated Seasat in 1978).
Any previous sea ice AREA data (even that supplemented by very localised airborne or surface thickness measurements in computer models, as in the PIOMAS model), is irrelevant by comparison.
It is sea ice volume that we need to measure, and sea ice volume alone that counts, as changes in ice volume are directly related to the quantity latent heat taken up from or given out to the surrounding ocean and atmosphere. And it is the heat accumulation in or loss from the overall ocean/atmosphere system that this whole ‘global warming’ controversy is concerned with, not ice area, temperature or any other similar red herring.
The only real questions are: “Is there more heat building up in the system or is there not?” and “Either way, is this phenomenon entirely natural or significantly due to human activity?”
I have no opinion either way myself, because I have yet to see any incontrovertible evidence that answers either of these questions.
However, I do appreciate good data when I see it, and this data is very good indeed.
Cryosat-2 is a brilliant effort by the ESA: a very high-latitude polar orbiting satellite, with instrumentation that is specifically designed to collect a very high vertical resolution radar altimetric map of the ice surface, and also to record and correct for any overlying unconsolidated snow cover. In the case of the free-floating Arctic polar ice cap, the resulting volume of ice above sea level can then be very easily converted into a volume measurement of the entire floating Arctic ice cap.
Sadly, the Cryosat-2 mission is only designed to run for a couple of years more. If we’d actually had this this sort of data for the past 30 years, or even since the failed launch of its original predecessor Cryosat-1 in 2005, we would now know a great deal more about what is actually going on with regard to the Arctic Ice. It is real data and the results for once are scientifically credible. Hopefully this will be the first of a continual series of similar systems.

M Courtney

Weather not climate.
The Arctic sea-ice trend is down. But it might be about to pause.
The Antarctic sea-ice trend is up.. There’s no sign of an impending pause.
Let’s wait and see.


Yeah, but……but…
Innit weather….?
God, is it worse than we thought?

Dodgy Geezer

“..Thick, multiyear ice indicates healthy Arctic sea-ice cover….”
What’s so ‘healthy’ about lots of ice in the Arctic? I don’t think that any figure is particularly ‘healthy’. Unless someone can tell me how much ice there ‘ought’ to be, and why that’s the ‘right’ number…

“… Thick, multiyear ice indicates healthy Arctic sea-ice cover.”
What I don’t understand is why a lot of ice up there is “healthy”. Suppose that all the ice did melt one summer. So what?
I don’t expect that the sea ice in the Arctic will go down much more, but rather I expect it to increase dramatically over the next few years; but no one has ever explained to my satisfaction why a reduction in sea ice cover would be a bad thing.
Anyone here care to educate me on that?


‘While this increase in ice volume is welcome news, it does not indicate a reversal in the long-term trend.’
Not yet but a few more years and you will have to change your tune 😉


What people forget is that Increasing Arctic sea ice is not inconsistent with AGW.
Remember the “Nobel Laureate” Trenberth has told us that the heat is hidding in the deep ocean and will soon bubble up, no doubt will melt all the sea ice.

How much money has ESA spent on this CryoSat Sattelite program? And was it really necessary spending all that cash when co-author of the study, professor Andrew Shepherd, apparently is able to provide the same information without sattelite measurements? (sarc)


Wow – that Arctic inversion is showing its teeth!


Based on that trend, much of North America might be covered in ice in a few thousand years, and brown and black bear populations might suffer due to their being unable to get to their prey because of too much ice. So perhaps we should increase global warming to save the black and brown bears. #Sarc.


If this satellite can measure how deep Alaskan lakes are freezing away from the Barrow area, it ought to be asked to do so, to counter the study reported in


“We didn’t expect the greater ice extent left at the end of this summer’s melt to be reflected in the volume. But it has been, and the reason is related to the amount of multiyear ice in the Arctic.”

Of course they didn’t. They believed the darker oceans absorb more heat leading to death spiral, amplification feedback loops. PS according to DMI it was the coldest central Arctic since 1958 too.
It is possible that this is just zombie ice.
Professor Peter Wadhams must be wetting his pants. This will teach him, just 1 and 2 more years to go.

Daily Telegraph – 8 November 2011
Arctic sea ice ‘to melt by 2015’
Prof Wadhams said: “His [model] is the most extreme but he is also the best modeller around.
It is really showing the fall-off in ice volume is so fast that it is going to bring us to zero very quickly. 2015 is a very serious prediction and I think I am pretty much persuaded that that’s when it will happen.”
Guardian – 17 September 2012
Arctic expert predicts final collapse of sea ice within four years
“This collapse, I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates”.
Financial Times Magazine – 2 August 2013
“It could even be this year or next year but not later than 2015 there won’t be any ice in the Arctic in the summer,”
The Scotsman – 12 September 2013
Arctic sea ice will vanish within three years, says expert
“The entire ice cover is now on the point of collapse.
The extra open water already created by the retreating ice allows bigger waves to be generated by storms, which are sweeping away the surviving ice. It is truly the case that it will be all gone by 2015. The consequences are enormous and represent a huge boost to global warming.”


“It’s estimated that there was around 20 000 cubic kilometres of Arctic sea ice each October in the early 1980s, and so today’s minimum still ranks among the lowest of the past 30 years,” said Professor Andrew Shepherd from University College London, a co-author of the study.
Well 30 years would be exactly half the cycle period noted in
M.G. Wyatt and J.A. Curry, “Role for Eurasian Arctic shelf sea ice in a secularly varying hemispheric climate signal during the 20th century,”
See Figs 7-10.

The best way to eyeball the ice-thickness is through the Navy map of thickness at , and the best way to get to that map and many other maps, without having to click from site to site, is via Anthony’s “Sea Ice Page” on the right hand margin of this page. At times during the summer, despite other good posts, that page achieves the rank of one of the five “Top Posts” on this site, which shows both how interested people are, and how good that site is.
Cherk the Sea Ice Page out right now and you’ll see the ice over ten feet thick has increased since October. It has pushed towards the Alaska Coast, and the made a right turn and is curving in the Beaufort Gyre north of Bering Strait. There is definitely much more than there was a couple years ago. We’ll have to see how it withstands the summer melt, but one would assume it will last longer than thinner ice. It may crumble apart and produce a larger extent of broken up bergs.
At one point Hansen was saying the reason we didn’t see warming was because the heat was used up melting ice. The reverse is also true. Forming ice releases a lot of latent heat. A greater amount of thick ice will take a greater amount of heat to melt.
Mostly the increase is due to the fact the ice wasn’t flushed south through Fram Strait. Even during the past two weeks there was a spell when the winds blew the “wrong way” through Fram Strait, pushing ice back north rather than flushing it south. So what the poor Alarmists must do is compose a headline stating, “Global Warming Causes Winds To Blow The Wrong Way.”
Right now a more typical North Atlantic gale is pushing the mass of the held-back ice south through Fram Strait, and on Anthony’s Sea Ice Page you can see a map that shows the extent in Fram Strait is above normal, not due to melting or freezing, but due to winds and a big mass of ice.
A lot of the thicker ice is not that old, and is baby-ice that didn’t go south last summer and was shoved into the Beaufort Gyre and piled up. However right around now it is having it’s first birthday, so I guess we can officially graduate it and hand it a diploma and call it “multi-year.” (Any excuse for a party.)


Please note that even IF (not going to happen soon though) Arctic sea ice extent in September 2014 is at the 1979 level they will still inform us that the trend is still down. 😉 Then they will take a peak at volume, and if that is at 1979 levels they will still say………………


This cannot be happening.
April 2008. And their deadly serious about tipping points.
Has anybody asked these “experts” what went wrong?


Proof, if proof were needed, that alarmist claims are just hot air. And that’s another thing, it’s not hot air that melts ice but warm water. AMO going cooler.


markstoval says: February 5, 2014 at 1:39 am
“Anyone here care to educate me on that?”
Please watch ‘An inconvenient truth’, buy 500 carbon credits and don’t you ever dare to question the settled science anymore! Because warmth is bad, cold is good. People are a burden and the earth vulnerable. The climate sensitive and the weather extreme. Cooling is warming. The heat is hiding. The sun is irrelevant. The oceans, clouds and watervapor don’t matter and therefore are not to be spoken about. CO2 is a poison and manmade CO2 a killer.
So says the upside down, inside out, back to front Climate Religion.

Dr. John M. Ware

A couple of commenters earlier on noted the word “healthy” referring to thick ice. “Healthy” is a heavily-laden value judgment, showing what the researchers think is what the situation should be. Why should it be? Whose decision is that? Is a cold Arctic better than a merely cool Arctic? Those are not scientific questions. No one knows–or can possibly know–what the ideal situation might be. There is no norm in such matters. While we can say–from research and experience–that the normal human body temperature is 98.6 F, and that normal vision is 20/20, no such statistic or research exists for large natural systems. Is Arctic weather behaving as it should? If not, how can one tell?
I would be content with a simple recitation of observed facts, including causes and effects where known and verifiable. Value judgments beyond such facts are irrelevant and misleading.

Good morning. Spam filter may have grabbed my last comment. Heavy snow just starting, here in southern New Hampshire.


Caleb, polar vortex still clearly shifted. Over the Arctic arrives the warm air and cold air over the North America.

It must be awful being a climate change scientist. Not only are you telling everyone you are second rate, but then some professor comes along and tells you he could have estimated your results, so you have been wasting your time.


Despite the increase in volume the Arctic ‘death spiral’ in volume continues. LOL. Holy date pick Batman!

Think Progress – 11 September 2013 Joe Romm
Arctic Death Spiral: CryoSat Reveals Decline In Arctic Sea Ice Volume Continues
Now new data from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat satellite has revealed that this ice volume trend continued through the spring of 2013:………

I feel sorry for old Joe. He is fighting an uphill battle as extent and volume are up this past autumn by 50% on 2012. This simply was not supposed to happen. Darker sea ice absorbs more heat and thus death spiral down the line. It really was as simple as that.


Interesting weather report on the BBC last night showing two deep lows side by side covering the whole North Atlantic. They showed very strong winds from Newfoundland to the Bay of Biscay. If this wind diverts any of the Gulf Stream surface waters look for a sharp increase in Arctic ice around Svalbard.

Richard Barraclough

I’m sure this will be the subject of a separate article soon, but I see the RSS anomaly for January has been released, at 0.262 deg C. Depending on the slant you wish to give it, this will no doubt be seen as either “significantly colder than January 2013” or “the second warmest month of the last 12”
The negative trend in this dataset still begins in September 1996 – just!

Bill Illis

The average sea ice thickness was certainly up this year. Volume and extent up close to 50%.
But this is really the best data that CryoSat2 can get. You get some monthly averages in October or February only because the data is just so variable. Every individual cell is completely different in each different orbit. Tides, waves, snow, wind, ice pack dynamics. I don’t think it was worth how much funding was used. For awhile, the operators were even trying to re-purpose the satellite for a new mission.

Greg Goodman says: “While this increase in ice volume is welcome news, it does not indicate a reversal in the long-term trend. ”
Of course, neither does it indicate a _continuation_ in the long-term trend because it’s just one year. Neither were the previous three years enough to indicate the long-term trend.
It’s likely that ice volume was considerably more when ice extent/area was considerably more but since we never measured it that does not indicate much about the trend either.
What the last four years measurements do tell is that it is not ‘run away melting” no “tipping point” has been reached and it’s not “accelerating” .
It’s worth comparing to trends in ice extent, now we have a handle on ice volume.
Now since the Arctic is apparently the “canary in the coal mine” perhaps we should be on guard against a dramatic cooling in the rest of NH climate. ….


Sigh – more half-baked conclusions over something that just plain doesn’t matter.
So what if there’s more or less ice in the Arctic? It doesn’t matter. The only ice that matters is Antarctic and Greenland. And contrary to fake reports over the years, they’re not going anywhere. As everyone here knows, the Antarctic ice is growing, not shrinking, and that’s the most massive chunk of ice on the planet. It would take thousands of years of the most dramatic temperature rise recorded to even start making any serious global impact on sea levels.
As anyone with even a smattering of knowledge about the climate on Earth should know, Arctic ice has grown and shrunk within recorded history, and we will never have anything other than anecdotal evidence for what it has been before 2010. But we do know just from the phrase “Northwest Passage” that it has been severely reduced in the past, and we can have little doubt that it will increase and decrease again in the future.
But even so, SO WHAT? Arctic ice is not important in any way, and no conclusions can be drawn from it. It gets pushed around by winds and can pile up against land, or pushed far enough South to melt. Since it’s floating it can’t significantly affect sea level. In fact, low Arctic ice ought to be Good News for climate alarmists, since it indicates that the automatic cooling mechanism is alive and well, effectively transporting heat from the equator to the pole, melting a bit on its way to radiating heat to space during the long Arctic night. Less ice means more effective removal of heat. More ice means there’s less heat to remove.
Alarmists have one thing partially right: the Arctic is something to watch. But they’re watching the wrong thing for the wrong reason. Melting ice does not, never did, and never will indicate that the planet is somehow in danger, and likewise increasing ice is meaningless.
One day more people will realize this fact.
Until then, Arctic ice cover and volume are interesting, but meaningless in the big picture.


Irritating that all findings are framed in the dominant meme of dangerous climate change. Climate Zombies have worked hard in science and the media to create an orthodoxy which only the bravest dare challenge. Pathetic and all to human.


THe obvious hypothesis is that arctic sea ice volume oscillates with periodicities in the multidecadal, the multi centennial and the millennial.
No doubt 20 years of data using CryoSat will be able to test the first of these periodicities, the null hypothesis for which should be that the 1980s saw a local maximum and the period 2007 – 2010 saw a local minimum. A return to 15 – 18,000+ by 2020 would be the testable hypothesis to falsify…….

Alan the Brit

Surely, this is good news, is it not?


Alan the Brit says:
Surely, this is good news, is it not?
Good news for whom?
Anyone with any objectivity got the message several years ago , Those who are still in denial about the real extent of change that can be tagged as AGW will be crying into his handkerchief and asking himself how they can even hope to ” help save the planet” if the planet won’t help them.
It’s a travesty. Now they’ll have to wait until all that missing heat pops back out of the deep oceanic abyss to starts melting the ice again.

Jason Calley

Jimbo says (in explanation of CAGW supporters): “Darker sea ice absorbs more heat and thus death spiral down the line. It really was as simple as that.”
Yes, and that type of simplistic thinking is an absolute hallmark of the CAGW creed. “CO2 absorbs infrared, therefore the Earth will heat up. H2O absorbs infrared, therefore the Earth will warm up. Open ocean is darker than ice, therefore the Earth will warm up.” I have never met a CAGW enthusiast who had even a remote idea of the complexity and feedback of Earth’s climate system.
I sometimes think that one reason why the Global Warming meme has been so popular is that it gives the ordinary person, the average Joe who never really excelled at science or math, the wonderful and exciting illusion of understanding Deep Science. For most people, the simple and plausible are as close to the truth as they will ever get, and CAGW alarmism is both simple and plausible. Of course, both the simplicity and the plausibility quickly disappear when one looks into the details. In the meantime, Arctic ice increases, Antarctic ice increases, temperatures drop, and the model makers cannot understand why. “Tis but a scratch!” they say.

Tom O

CodeTech, I agree in part with what you are saying about the floating ice – and the ice extent increase, for that matter, in Antarctica. However, I also know that when all the ice in my Rum and Coke melts, my drink gets warmer, so I don’t agree with the comment that it doesn’t matter or is meaningless in the big picture.


I reckon we need to send Chris Turney to investigate….

Larry Kirk

Is it only me that is finding the relentless negativity and carping a little wearing here?
Surely the important point is simply that, prior to this new Cryosat-2 satellite data, we wouldn’t have known that there had been a 50% increase in Arctic sea ice volume in the year from October 2012 to October 2013!
But now we do!
This is a huge win for science. Hooray!! It has been money so well spent.
And yes it does go spectacularly against some of the prevailing orthodoxy (for this as-yet insignificantly short period of time). So celebrate that too if that is your (at this stage rather unscientific) inclination.
But at least celebrate it.
Personally I think it is a brilliant scientific advance that we can now measure Arctic sea ice volume with certainty, and wonder what else we are now able to measure with hitherto unknowable certainty elsewhere on the ice-covered areas of the planet, and what new conclusions may eventually be drawn from these measurements.
But it looks like I am the only optimist in the room down here at this time of night.
Perhaps when the US wakes up and digs itself out of the snow, someone there will have something positive to add..


Tom O:
Your post at February 5, 2014 at 5:13 am says

CodeTech, I agree in part with what you are saying about the floating ice – and the ice extent increase, for that matter, in Antarctica. However, I also know that when all the ice in my Rum and Coke melts, my drink gets warmer, so I don’t agree with the comment that it doesn’t matter or is meaningless in the big picture.

But sea ice is increasing. Indeed, when Arctic ice was decreasing the growth in Antarctic ice was so rapid that total polar ice was increasing. The suggestion (prediction?) from warmunists was that Arctic sea ice would all ‘melt’ and NOT that ALL sea ice would ‘melt’.
So, please explain what you think to be the relevance of “when all the ice in my Rum and Coke melts, my drink gets warmer”?

Larry Kirk says:
February 5, 2014 at 12:57 am
“To my way of thinking this is the first and only reliable Arctic sea ice VOLUME data we have ever had [and] any previous sea ice AREA […] is irrelevant by comparison.”
The satellite is short lived but is designed to allow evaluation of ground based measurements to determine their accuracy.

Gail COmbs

Alan the Brit says: @ February 5, 2014 at 4:46 am
Surely, this is good news, is it not?
Depends on if you like it cold or warm. Me? I prefer warm which is why I moved from New England to North Carolina but so far it has been a cold wet and miserable winter. Last summer was nice though. I thought I was back in New England it was so mild.


I wonder where it leaves the current fuss about Arctic ice and the jet stream.
Any thoughts?

But.. but.. but… Keystone!!!
(that’s not meant to be a rational statement, it’s just the only level of argument that the enviro-fanatics have left)

Chris D.

markstoval says: February 5, 2014 at 1:39 am
“Anyone here care to educate me on that?”
The hypothesis is that less ice on the Arctic Sea leads to more solar energy absorption by that area of the ocean previously covered by ice. Not sure how much energy an extra million +/- square kilometers represents in terms of joules with the sun’s rays hitting at such oblique angles, though. Perhaps someone else could educate us both on how significant it really is.


It’s interesting to note that NH sea-ice area only increased by about 10% from the 2012 minimum to the 2013 max last March.
That makes the Oct 12 – Oct 13 recovery of 50% astounding.

kent blaker

Increasing multi year sea ice is all about the wind. The wind piles first year sea ice up so thick that it does not all met in the summer. To be surprised that it has increased shows a lack of understanding of the whole process.Area, extent, and volume are all affected by the wind. Without the wind, things would be quite different at the poles. The formation of first year sea ice is very dependent on the wind. What should be focused on is the gain/loss of energy from the surface down to 2000 meters of the polar sea waters not just the thin layer of sea ice/ice.


It appears that the snow and ice that has left the Arctic has moved to my backyard. The puppy with very little hair is unimpressed!