1International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 930 Koyukuk Drive, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA
2Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia
3Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
4Uni Research and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, c/o Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, Allegaten 70, 5007 Bergen, Norway
Abstract. Long-term thinning of arctic sea ice over the last few decades has resulted in significant declines in the coverage of thick multi-year ice accompanied by a proportional increase in thinner first-year ice. This change is often attributed to changes in the arctic atmosphere, both in composition and large-scale circulation, and greater inflow of warmer Pacific water through the Bering Strait. The Atlantic Water (AW) entering the Arctic through Fram Strait has often been considered less important because of strong stratification in the Arctic Ocean and the deeper location of AW compared to Pacific water. In our combined examination of oceanographic measurements and satellite observations of ice concentration and thickness, we find evidence that AW has a direct impact on the thinning of arctic sea ice downstream of Svalbard Archipelago. The affected area extends as far as Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago. The imprints of AW appear as local minima in sea ice thickness; ice thickness is significantly less than that expected of first-year ice. Our lower-end conservative estimates indicate that the recent AW warming episode could have contributed up to 150–200 km3 of sea ice melt per year, which would constitute about 20% of the total 900 km3yr−1 negative trend in sea ice volume since 2004.