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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 09 Dec 2019

Submitted as: research article | 09 Dec 2019

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A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Consistent variability but different spatial patterns between observed and reanalysed sea-ice thickness

Joula Siponen1,2, Petteri Uotila1, Eero Rinne2, and Steffen Tietsche3 Joula Siponen et al.
  • 1Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research, University of Helsinki
  • 2Finnish Meteorological Institute
  • 3European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts

Abstract. Changes in sea-ice thickness are one of the most visible signs of climate change. However, to gain a comprehensive understanding of mechanisms involved, long time series are needed. Importantly, the development of more accurate predictions of sea ice in the Arctic requires good observational products. To assist this, a new sea-ice thickness product by ESA Climate Change Initiative (CCI) is here compared to the ocean reanalysis ORAS5 by ECMWF for the first time. The CCI product is based on two satellite altimetry missions, CryoSat-2 and ENVISAT, which are combined to the longest continuous satellite altimetry time series of Arctic-wide sea-ice thickness, 2002–2017 and continuing.

Time series of sea-ice volume for the CCI coverage reveal years of extremely low volume as well as recovery during the winter season. The 15-year trends in sea-ice volume are clearly negative over the time series and despite large variability between years statistically significant. The 15-year ORAS5 trends have larger interannual variability than the CCI trends and are therefore not statistically significant despite of a good match in terms of year-to-year variability. The observed negative trends result from changes in both atmospheric and oceanic forcing.

The CCI product performs well in the validation of the ORAS5 reanalysis: overall root-mean-square difference (RMSD) between sea-ice thickness from CCI and ORAS5 is below 1 m. However, seasonal and interannual RMSD variations during the time series are large, from 0.5 m to 1.3 m. The differences are a sum of reanalysis biases, such as incorrect physics or forcing, as well as uncertainties in satellite altimetry, such as the snow climatology used in the thickness retrieval.

Joula Siponen et al.

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Joula Siponen et al.

Joula Siponen et al.


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Latest update: 05 Apr 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Long sea-ice thickness time series are needed to better understand the Arctic climate and improve its forecasts. In this study 2002–2017 satellite observations are compared with reanalysis output, which is used as initial conditions for long forecasts. The reanalysis agrees well with satellite observations, with differences typically below 1 m when averaged in time, although seasonally and in certain years the differences are large. This is caused by uncertainties in reanalysis and observations.
Long sea-ice thickness time series are needed to better understand the Arctic climate and...