Journal cover Journal topic
The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
09 Oct 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).
The Arctic sea ice cover of 2016: A year of record low highs and higher than expected lows
Alek A. Petty1,2, Julienne C. Stroeve3,4, Paul R. Holland5, Linette N. Boisvert1,2, Angela C. Bliss1,2, Noriaki Kimura6, and Walter N. Meier4 1Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
2Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
3Center for Polar Observation & Modelling, University College London, London, UK
4National Snow and Ice Data Center, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
5British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK
6Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Abstract. 2016 was an interesting year in the Arctic, with record low sea ice at the start of the year, but a summer (September) Arctic sea ice extent that was higher than expected by most seasonal forecasts. Here we explore the 2016 Arctic sea ice state in terms of its monthly sea ice cover, placing this in context of the sea ice conditions observed since 2000. We demonstrate the sensitivity of monthly Arctic sea ice extent and area estimates, in terms of their magnitude and annual rankings, to the ice concentration input data (using two widely used datasets) and to the methodology used to convert concentration to extent (daily or monthly extent calculations). We use estimates of sea ice area to analyse the relative 'compactness' of the Arctic sea ice cover, highlighting anomalously low compactness in the summer of 2016 which contributed to the higher than expected September ice extent. Two cyclones that entered the Arctic Ocean during August appear to have driven this low concentration/compactness ice cover, but were not sufficient to cause more widespread melt out and a new record low September ice extent. We use concentration budgets to explore the regions and processes (thermodynamics/dynamics) contributing to the monthly 2016 extent/area estimates highlighting, amongst other things, rapid ice intensification across the central eastern Arctic through September. Two different products show significant early melt onset across the Arctic Ocean in 2016, including record early melt onset in the North Atlantic sector of the Arctic. Our results also show record late 2016 freeze up in the Central Arctic, North Atlantic. and the Alaskan Arctic sector in particular, associated with strong sea surface temperature anomalies that appeared shortly after the 2016 minimum (October onwards). We explore the implications of this low summer ice compactness for seasonal forecasting, suggesting that sea ice area could be a more reliable metric to forecast in this more seasonal, 'New Arctic', sea ice regime.

Citation: Petty, A. A., Stroeve, J. C., Holland, P. R., Boisvert, L. N., Bliss, A. C., Kimura, N., and Meier, W. N.: The Arctic sea ice cover of 2016: A year of record low highs and higher than expected lows, The Cryosphere Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
Alek A. Petty et al.
Alek A. Petty et al.
Alek A. Petty et al.


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