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RIP Arctic sea ice

18 Oct 2023 | Science Notes

As in, rip-roaring, or at least coming back as it always does, and lately faster than expected. Ron Clutz’s Science Matters website shows satellite-based measurements of the September minimum sea ice volume back to 2007, forecasts for this year’s ice melt from 29 modeling groups in the Sea Ice Prediction Network, and the monthly sea ice extent data for this year. On average, over the past 17 years, the summer months lead to a September sea ice extent of about 4.6 million square km. And the models predicted the ice cover this year would be somewhere between 2.9 and 5.5 million square km, which is about as useful as throwing a dart at a wall. In fact it came in slightly below average at around 4.4 million square km, which is above 2019 and 2020 but below 2021 and 2022. However just since the start of October the ice is coming back with a vengeance.

If you click here you can seen a 4-stage GIF comparing ice coverage for Sept 30, Oct 3, 6 and 9. The ice coverage ended September slightly below its 17-year average and is now close to its average for this time of year.

The above chart shows daily readings through September and October. The black line is the 17-year average. The green line shows 2010 with its large ice volume, and the purple line shows 2020 with a comparatively low volume, and the light blue and orange lines show this year from two different satellite systems. The blue line is basically back at the average and the orange line is catching up.

This being the year of the “gobsmackingly bananas“ climate inferno thingy, you might have expected the Arctic to chip in with some dramatic sea ice loss. But as always, it’s more complicated than that, the models are way off (in either direction) and the planet as usual doesn’t seem inclined to play along with the media hype.

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