Articles | Volume 12, issue 5
Research article
30 May 2018
Research article |  | 30 May 2018

Warm winter, thin ice?

Julienne C. Stroeve, David Schroder, Michel Tsamados, and Daniel Feltham

Abstract. Winter 2016/2017 saw record warmth over the Arctic Ocean, leading to the least amount of freezing degree days north of 70° N since at least 1979. The impact of this warmth was evaluated using model simulations from the Los Alamos sea ice model (CICE) and CryoSat-2 thickness estimates from three different data providers. While CICE simulations show a broad region of anomalously thin ice in April 2017 relative to the 2011–2017 mean, analysis of three CryoSat-2 products show more limited regions with thin ice and do not always agree with each other, both in magnitude and direction of thickness anomalies. CICE is further used to diagnose feedback processes driving the observed anomalies, showing 11–13 cm reduced thermodynamic ice growth over the Arctic domain used in this study compared to the 2011–2017 mean, and dynamical contributions of +1 to +4 cm. Finally, CICE model simulations from 1985 to 2017 indicate the negative feedback relationship between ice growth and winter air temperatures may be starting to weaken, showing decreased winter ice growth since 2012, as winter air temperatures have increased and the freeze-up has been further delayed.

Short summary
This paper looks at the impact of the warm winter and anomalously low number of total freezing degree days during winter 2016/2017 on thermodynamic ice growth and overall thickness anomalies. The approach relies on evaluation of satellite data (CryoSat-2) and model output. While there is a negative feedback between rapid ice growth for thin ice, with thermodynamic ice growth increasing over time, since 2012 that relationship is changing, in part because the freeze-up is happening later.