Second-lowest September minimum since observations began
The sea-ice extent in the Arctic is nearing its annual minimum at the end of the melt season in September. Only circa 3.9 million square kilometres of the Arctic Ocean are covered by sea ice any more, according to researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute and the University of Bremen.
This is only the second time that the annual minimum has dropped below four million square kilometres since satellite measurements began in 1979.
Until mid-August, it looked as though a notable record would be reached: the area of the Arctic Ocean covered by ice (defined as the area with a sea-ice concentration of more than 15 percent) from late March to early August was the smallest measured by satellites since 1979.
“Our satellite data show that between March and April 2019, there was an unusually large decrease in the ice extent, from which the Arctic sea ice was unable to recover,” explain Professor Christian Haas, a geophysicist and head of the Sea Ice section at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and Dr Gunnar Spreen from the University of Bremen’s Institute for Environmental Physics.
Since the second half of August, however, the seasonal reduction has slowed down, overlaid by short-term fluctuations. The lowest value so far for 2019 was 3.82 million square kilometres, observed on 3 September. This means that this year, the September average could be below 4 million square kilometres for only the second time.
But in the coming weeks, the ice could retreat further: even though in early fall air temperatures in the Arctic have now fallen below freezing, the heat stored in the water can continue to melt the underside of the ice for a few more weeks. However, if it becomes extremely cold in the Arctic in the days ahead, the ice cover can already increase again.
In October, the scientists will analyse the data for the whole of September, and will then be able to make a final assessment of the sea-ice minimum in 2019. It appears unlikely that this year we will see a new absolute record, below the sea-ice extent of 3.4 million square kilometres observed in 2012.
“Record or not, this year confirms the continued long-term reduction of Arctic sea ice as a result of climate change, making it ever more likely that in a few decades the Arctic will be ice free in summer. This will mean drastic changes in the Arctic, with consequences for the climate and ecosystems, as well as for people, including us in Europe,” says Christian Haas.
Scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute and the Institute for Environmental Physics at the University of Bremen are together analysing the complete satellite data on the ice concentration, extent, and thickness, as well as atmospheric measurements.
The website https://www.meereisportal.de/en/ , for example, publishes daily updated ice maps and provides detailed summaries of the sea-ice developments. Ice extent estimates from other institutions (e.g. NSIDC or OSI-SAF) can provide slightly different results.
Currently, for 2019 they predict the third-lowest ice extent. “These slight differences are due to the higher resolution of our data and the slightly different methods used to calculate the ice concentration. They show the uncertainties that even the most modern satellite observations can have.
Data from the MOSAiC expedition (https://www.mosaic-expedition.org/) will help to reduce these uncertainties,” explains Dr Gunnar Spreen from the University of Bremen’s Institute for Environmental Physics.
The researchers are currently particularly interested in the northern Laptev Sea: on 20 September, the research icebreaker Polarstern will set sail from Tromsø, in Norway, for the start of the MOSAiC expedition. In the northern Laptev Sea they will search for a suitable ice floe to moor the Polarstern to, in order to drift, icebound, through the Central Arctic for an entire year.
“We’re following the ice situation very closely and have developed a series of new data products (http://data.meereisportal.de/gallery/index_new.php?lang=en_US&survey=&ac...) to offer the best-possible, detailed insights into the current conditions,” reports Christian Haas. “In the Laptev Sea, the ice situation is similar to previous years with an Arctic-wide low ice extent.
This means that it will be relatively easy for us to reach our research area, at a latitude of 85 degrees north. But being so close to the ice edge will make it difficult to find a suitable ice floe that is large enough and thick enough to set up our ice camp. Our computer models show that the ice south of 88 degrees north is less than 80 centimetres thick, which is less than the 1.2 metres we’d ideally like to have to safely set up our measuring stations. We may have to travel farther north than planned to find the right conditions,” expects Christian Haas, who will lead the second leg of the MOSAiC expedition from mid-December.
Notes to Editors:
Printable images and graphics are available online: https://www.awi.de/en/about-us/service/press/press-release/low-sea-ice-cover-in-...
Your scientific contact persons are Prof. Dr Christian Haas, Alfred Wegener Institute, tel. +49 (0)471 4831-2285 (e-mail: Christian.Haas(at)awi.de) and Dr Gunnar Spreen, University of Bremen, tel. +49 (0)421 218-62158 (e-mail: gunnar.spreen(at)uni-bremen.de). Your contact person in the Communications Dept. of the Alfred Wegener Institute is Dr Folke Mehrtens, tel. +49 (0)471 4831-2007 (e-mail: media(at)awi.de).
The Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and oceans of the high and mid-latitudes. It coordinates polar research in Germany and provides major infrastructure to the international scientific community, such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctica. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the 19 research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.
Joint Press Release: Alfred Wegener Institute and University of Bremen
Ralf Röchert | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Strong storms generating earthquake-like seismic activity
16.10.2019 | Florida State University
The shelf life of pyrite
14.10.2019 | MARUM - Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Bremen
A very special kind of light is emitted by tungsten diselenide layers. The reason for this has been unclear. Now an explanation has been found at TU Wien (Vienna)
It is an exotic phenomenon that nobody was able to explain for years: when energy is supplied to a thin layer of the material tungsten diselenide, it begins to...
Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have explored the initial consequences of the interaction of light with molecules on the surface of nanoscopic aerosols.
The nanocosmos is constantly in motion. All natural processes are ultimately determined by the interplay between radiation and matter. Light strikes particles...
Particles that are mere nanometers in size are at the forefront of scientific research today. They come in many different shapes: rods, spheres, cubes, vesicles, S-shaped worms and even donut-like rings. What makes them worthy of scientific study is that, being so tiny, they exhibit quantum mechanical properties not possible with larger objects.
Researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility located at DOE's Argonne National...
A new research project at the TH Mittelhessen focusses on the development of a novel light weight design concept for leisure boats and yachts. Professor Stephan Marzi from the THM Institute of Mechanics and Materials collaborates with Krake Catamarane, which is a shipyard located in Apolda, Thuringia.
The project is set up in an international cooperation with Professor Anders Biel from Karlstad University in Sweden and the Swedish company Lamera from...
Superconductivity has fascinated scientists for many years since it offers the potential to revolutionize current technologies. Materials only become superconductors - meaning that electrons can travel in them with no resistance - at very low temperatures. These days, this unique zero resistance superconductivity is commonly found in a number of technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Future technologies, however, will harness the total synchrony of electronic behavior in superconductors - a property called the phase. There is currently a...
02.10.2019 | Event News
02.10.2019 | Event News
19.09.2019 | Event News
18.10.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.10.2019 | Medical Engineering
18.10.2019 | Physics and Astronomy