Diminishing sea ice in the western Arctic Ocean

Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
By: , and 
Edited by: D.H. Levinson and A.M. Waple



Since the advent of satellite passive microwave radiometry (1978), variations in sea ice extent and concentration have been carefully monitored from space. An estimated 7.4% decrease in sea ice extent has occurred in the last 25 yr (Johannessen et al. 2004), with recent record minima (e.g., Maslanik et al. 1999; Serreze et al. 2003) accounting for much of the decline. Comparisons between the time series of Arctic sea ice melt dynamics and snowmelt dates at the NOAA–CMDL Barrow Observatory (BRW) reveal intriguing correlations.

Melt-onset dates over sea ice (Drobot and Anderson 2001) were cross correlated with the melt-date time series from BRW, and a prominent region of high correlation between snowmelt onset over sea ice and the BRW record of melt dates was approximately aligned with the climatological center of the Beaufort Sea Anticyclone (BSA). The BSA induces anticyclonic ice motion in the region, effectively forcing the Beaufort gyre. A weak gyre caused by a breakdown of the BSA diminishes transport of multiyear ice into this region (Drobot and Maslanik 2003). Similarly, the annual snow cycle at BRW varies with the position and intensity of the BSA (Stone et al. 2002, their Fig. 6). Thus, variations in the BSA appear to have far-reaching effects on the annual accumulation and subsequent melt of snow over a large region of the western Arctic.

A dramatic increase in melt season duration (Belchansky et al. 2004) was also observed within the same region of high correlation between onset of melt over the ice pack and snowmelt at BRW (Fig. 5.7). By inference, this suggests linkages between factors that modulate the annual cycle of snow on land and processes that influence melting of snow and ice in the western Arctic Ocean.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Diminishing sea ice in the western Arctic Ocean
Series title Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
DOI 10.1175/BAMS-85-6-Levinson
Volume 85
Issue 6 - Special Section
Year Published 2004
Language English
Publisher American Meteorological Society
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 2 p.
First page S32
Last page S33
Public Comments This publication is a section of the Special Section (titled "State of the Climate in 2003") of volume 85, no.6 of this journal.
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