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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-2
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-2
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 15 Jan 2019

Research article | 15 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Rapid decline of Arctic sea ice volume: Causes and consequences

Jean-Claude Gascard1, Jinlun Zhang2, and Mehrad Rafizadeh1 Jean-Claude Gascard et al.
  • 1LOCEAN, Sorbonne Université, Paris, France
  • 2Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Lab, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Abstract. The drastic reduction of the Arctic sea ice over the past 40 years is the most glaring evidence of climate change on Planet Earth. Among all the variables characterizing sea ice, the sea ice volume is by far the most sensitive one for climate change since it is decaying at the highest rate compared to sea ice extent and sea ice thickness. In 40 years the Arctic Ocean has lost about 3/4 of its sea ice volume at the end of the summer season corresponding to a reduction of both sea ice extent and sea ice thickness by half on average. From more than 16 000 km3, 40 years ago, the Arctic sea ice summer minimum dropped down to less than 4000 km3 during the most recent summers. Being a combination of Arctic sea ice extent and sea ice thickness, the Arctic sea ice volume is difficult to observe directly and accurately. We estimated cumulative Freezing-Degree Days (FDD) over a 9 month freezing time period (September to May each year) based on ERA Interim surface air temperature reanalysis over the whole Arctic Ocean and for the past 38 years. Then we compared the Arctic sea ice volume based on sea ice thickness deduced from cumulative FDD with Arctic sea ice volume estimated from PIOMAS (Pan Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System) and from the ESA CRYOSAT-2 satellite. The results are strikingly similar. The warming of the atmosphere is playing an important role in contributing to the Arctic sea ice volume decrease during the whole freezing season (September to May). In addition, the FDD spatial distribution exhibiting a sharp double peak-like feature is reflecting the Multi Y ear Ice (MYI) versus First Year Ice (FYI) dual disposition typical of the Arctic sea ice cover. This is indicative of a significant contribution from the vertical ocean heat fluxes throughout the ice depending on MYI versus FYI distribution and the snow layer on top of it influencing the surface air temperature accordingly. In 2018 the Arctic MYI vanished almost completely for the first time ever over the past 40 years. The quasi complete disappearance of the Arctic sea ice is more likely to happen in summer within the next 15 years with broad consequences for Arctic marine and terrestrial ecosystems, climate and weather patterns on a planetary scale and globally on human activities.

Jean-Claude Gascard et al.
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Jean-Claude Gascard et al.
Jean-Claude Gascard et al.
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Short summary
From ERA Interim surface air temperature reanalysis, we estimated Freezing Degrees Days (FDD) over the whole Arctic Ocean during the freezing period each year for the past 40 years. We deduced sea ice growth from FDD that we compared with model (PIOMAS) and satellite (Cryosat-2) estimations. The warming of the Atmosphere and the vertical heat fluxes from the Ocean are contributing to the Arctic sea ice rapid decline. A disappearance of Arctic sea ice in summer is predictable within 15 years.
From ERA Interim surface air temperature reanalysis, we estimated Freezing Degrees Days (FDD)...
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