Spatial and temporal variations in the age structure of Arctic sea ice are investigated using a new reverse chronology algorithm that tracks ice-covered pixels to their location and date of origin based on ice motion and concentration data. The Beaufort Gyre tends to harbor the oldest (>10 years old) sea ice in the western Arctic while direct ice advection pathways toward the Transpolar Drift Stream maintain relatively young (<5 years) ice in the eastern Arctic. Persistent net losses (-4.2%/yr) in extent of ice >10 years old (10+ year age class) were observed during 1989-2003. Since the mid-1990s, losses to the 10+ year age class lacked compensation by recruitment due to a prior depletion of all mature (6-10 year) age classes. Survival of the 1994 and 1996-1998 sea ice generations reestablished most mature age classes, and thereby the potential to increase extent of the 10+ year age class during the mid-2000s.
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Spatial and temporal variations in the age structure of Arctic sea ice