Articles | Volume 11, issue 1
Research article
13 Jan 2017
Research article |  | 13 Jan 2017

Fram Strait sea ice export variability and September Arctic sea ice extent over the last 80 years

Lars H. Smedsrud, Mari H. Halvorsen, Julienne C. Stroeve, Rong Zhang, and Kjell Kloster

Abstract. A new long-term data record of Fram Strait sea ice area export from 1935 to 2014 is developed using a combination of satellite radar images and station observations of surface pressure across Fram Strait. This data record shows that the long-term annual mean export is about 880 000 km2, representing 10 % of the sea-ice-covered area inside the basin. The time series has large interannual and multi-decadal variability but no long-term trend. However, during the last decades, the amount of ice exported has increased, with several years having annual ice exports that exceeded 1 million km2. This increase is a result of faster southward ice drift speeds due to stronger southward geostrophic winds, largely explained by increasing surface pressure over Greenland. Evaluating the trend onwards from 1979 reveals an increase in annual ice export of about +6 % per decade, with spring and summer showing larger changes in ice export (+11 % per decade) compared to autumn and winter (+2.6 % per decade). Increased ice export during winter will generally result in new ice growth and contributes to thinning inside the Arctic Basin. Increased ice export during summer or spring will, in contrast, contribute directly to open water further north and a reduced summer sea ice extent through the ice–albedo feedback. Relatively low spring and summer export from 1950 to 1970 is thus consistent with a higher mid-September sea ice extent for these years. Our results are not sensitive to long-term change in Fram Strait sea ice concentration. We find a general moderate influence between export anomalies and the following September sea ice extent, explaining 18 % of the variance between 1935 and 2014, but with higher values since 2004.

Short summary
Export of Arctic sea ice area southwards through the Fram Strait from 1935 to 2014 is calculated based on satellite radar images and surface pressure observations. The annual mean export is 880 000 km2, representing 10 % of the Arctic sea ice area. In recent years the export has been above 1 million km2, and there are positive trends over the last 30 years. Increased ice export during spring and summer contributes to more open water in September, and this correlations has increased over time.