Article | Published:

Increased Arctic sea ice volume after anomalously low melting in 2013

Nature Geoscience volume 8, pages 643646 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

Changes in Arctic sea ice volume affect regional heat and freshwater budgets and patterns of atmospheric circulation at lower latitudes. Despite a well-documented decline in summer Arctic sea ice extent by about 40% since the late 1970s, it has been difficult to quantify trends in sea ice volume because detailed thickness observations have been lacking. Here we present an assessment of the changes in Northern Hemisphere sea ice thickness and volume using five years of CryoSat-2 measurements. Between autumn 2010 and 2012, there was a 14% reduction in Arctic sea ice volume, in keeping with the long-term decline in extent. However, we observe 33% and 25% more ice in autumn 2013 and 2014, respectively, relative to the 2010–2012 seasonal mean, which offset earlier losses. This increase was caused by the retention of thick sea ice northwest of Greenland during 2013 which, in turn, was associated with a 5% drop in the number of days on which melting occurred—conditions more typical of the late 1990s. In contrast, springtime Arctic sea ice volume has remained stable. The sharp increase in sea ice volume after just one cool summer suggests that Arctic sea ice may be more resilient than has been previously considered.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    & Disappearing Arctic sea ice reduces available water in the American west. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L06209 (2004).

  2. 2.

    , , & Integrated regional changes in Arctic climate feedbacks: Implications for the global climate system. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 31, 61–91 (2006).

  3. 3.

    , & Twenty-first-century climate impacts from a declining Arctic sea ice cover. J. Clim. 19, 1109–1125 (2006).

  4. 4.

    Evidence for thinning of the Arctic ice cover north of Greenland. Nature 345, 795–797 (1990).

  5. 5.

    , & High interannual variability of sea ice thickness in the Arctic region. Nature 425, 947–950 (2003).

  6. 6.

    , & Circumpolar thinning of Arctic sea ice following the 2007 record ice extent minimum. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L22502 (2008).

  7. 7.

    & Decline in Arctic sea ice thickness from submarine and ICESat records: 1958–2008. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L15501 (2009).

  8. 8.

    , & The sea ice mass budget of the Arctic and its future change as simulated by coupled climate models. Clim. Dynam. 34, 185–200 (2010).

  9. 9.

    et al. Trends in Arctic sea ice extent from CMIP5, CMIP3 and observations. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L16502 (2012).

  10. 10.

    , , & Sea Ice Index (National Snow and Ice Data Center, Digital Media, 2002).

  11. 11.

    & Modeling global sea ice with a thickness and enthalpy distribution model in generalized curvilinear coordinates. Mon. Weath. Rev. 131, 845–861 (2003).

  12. 12.

    et al. CryoSat-2 estimates of Arctic sea ice thickness and volume. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 732–737 (2013).

  13. 13.

    et al. in Natural Hazards and Oceanographic Processes from Satellite Data Vol. 37 (eds Singh, R. P. & Shea, M. A.) 841–871 (Elsevier, 2006).

  14. 14.

    et al. Snow depth on Arctic sea ice. J. Clim. 12, 1814–1829 (1999).

  15. 15.

    , , & The relation between sea ice thickness and freeboard in the Arctic. Cryosphere 4, 373–380 (2010).

  16. 16.

    et al. Relationship between sea ice freeboard and draft in the Arctic Basin, and implications for ice thickness monitoring. J. Geophys. Res. 97, 20325–20334 (1992).

  17. 17.

    & Large-scale surveys of snow depth on Arctic sea ice from Operation IceBridge. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L20505 (2011).

  18. 18.

    & Near-Real-Time DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS Daily Polar Gridded Sea Ice Concentrations (NASA DAAC at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Digital Media, 1999).

  19. 19.

    & Eddy length scales and the Rossby radius in the Arctic Ocean. Ocean Sci. Discuss. 10, 1807–1831 (2013).

  20. 20.

    et al. Sea ice thickness, freeboard, and snow depth products from Operation IceBridge airborne data. Cryosphere 7, 1035–1056 (2013).

  21. 21.

    , , , & Helicopter-borne measurements of sea ice thickness, using a small and lightweight, digital EM system. J. Appl. Geophys. 67, 234–241 (2009).

  22. 22.

    et al. Thinning and volume loss of the Arctic Ocean sea ice cover: 2003–2008. J. Geophys. Res. 114, C07005 (2009).

  23. 23.

    , & The influence of sea ice physics on simulations of climate change. J. Geophys. Res. 106, 19639–19655 (2001).

  24. 24.

    Energy exchange over young sea ice in the central Arctic. J. Geophys. Res. 83, 3646–3658 (1978).

  25. 25.

    et al. The ERA-Interim reanalysis: Configuration and performance of the data assimilation system. Q. J. R Meteorol. Soc. 137, 553–597 (2011).

  26. 26.

    Near zero replenishment of the Arctic multiyear sea ice cover at the end of 2005 summer. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L05501 (2007).

  27. 27.

    & When will the summer Arctic be nearly sea ice free? Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 2097–2101 (2013).

  28. 28.

    et al. Recent and future changes in Arctic sea ice simulated by the HadCM3 AOGCM. Geophys. Res. Lett. 29, 2175 (2002).

  29. 29.

    et al. Laboratory measurements of radar backscatter from bare and snow-covered saline ice sheets. Int. J. Remote Sensing 16, 851–876 (1995).

  30. 30.

    , , , & Field investigations of Ku-band radar penetration into snow cover on Antarctic sea ice. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sensing 48, 365–372 (2010).

  31. 31.

    & Sea surface height determination in the Arctic Ocean from ERS altimetry. J. Geophys. Res. 109, C07001 (2004).

  32. 32.

    et al. Interdecadal changes in snow depth on Arctic sea ice. J. Geophys. Res. 119, 5395–5406 (2014).

  33. 33.

    et al. Combined airborne laser and radar altimeter measurements over the Fram Strait in May 2002. Remote Sensing Environ. 111, 182–194 (2007).

  34. 34.

    Morphometric Characteristics of Ice and Snow in the Arctic Basin: Aircraft Landing Observations from the Former Soviet Union, 1928–1989 (National Snow and Ice Data Center, 2004).

  35. 35.

    , , , & Sensitivity of CryoSat-2 Arctic sea-ice freeboard and thickness on radar-waveform interpretation. Cryosphere 8, 1607–1622 (2014).

Download references

Acknowledgements

This study is based on the work of our late colleagues S. Laxon and K. Giles, and we are indebted to them for the excellent foundations they have left. We thank C. Haas and the CryoVEx EM-Bird team for providing us with their data, as well as all those whose publicly available data we have used. This work was funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council, with support from the UK National Centre for Earth Observation.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, Department of Earth Sciences, University College London, Gower Street London WC1E 6BT, UK

    • Rachel L. Tilling
    • , Andy Ridout
    • , Andrew Shepherd
    •  & Duncan J. Wingham
  2. Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

    • Andrew Shepherd

Authors

  1. Search for Rachel L. Tilling in:

  2. Search for Andy Ridout in:

  3. Search for Andrew Shepherd in:

  4. Search for Duncan J. Wingham in:

Contributions

R.L.T. and A.R. developed and analysed the satellite and ancillary observations. A.S. and D.J.W. supervised the work. R.L.T., A.R. and A.S. wrote the paper. All authors commented on the text.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rachel L. Tilling.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Information

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2489