Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-282
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-282

  28 Oct 2020

28 Oct 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Faster decline and higher variability in the sea ice thickness of the marginal Arctic seas

Robbie D. C. Mallett1, Julienne C. Stroeve1,2,3, Michel Tsamados1, Jack C. Landy4, Rosemary Willatt1, Vishnu Nandan3, and Glen E. Liston5 Robbie D. C. Mallett et al.
  • 1Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, Earth Sciences, University College London, London, UK
  • 2National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 3Centre for Earth Observation Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
  • 4School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  • 5Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Abstract. Mean sea ice thickness is a sensitive indicator of Arctic climate change and in long-term decline despite significant interannual variability. Current thickness estimations from satellite radar altimeters employ a snow climatology for converting range measurements to sea ice thickness, but this introduces unrealistically low interannual variability and trends. When the sea ice thickness in the period 2002–2018 is calculated using new snow data with more realistic variability and trends, we find mean sea ice thickness in three of the seven marginal seas to be declining between 70–100 % faster than when calculated with the conventional method. When analysed as an aggregate, the mean ice thickness in the marginal seas is now in statistically significant decline for four of seven winter months. This is observed despite a 58% increase in interannual variability between the methods in the same time period. On a seasonal timescale we find that snow data exerts an increasingly strong control on thickness variability over the growth season, contributing only 20 % in October but 72 % by April. Higher variability and faster decline in the sea ice thickness of the marginal seas has wide implications for our understanding of the polar climate system and our predictions for its change, as well as for stakeholders involved in Arctic shipping and natural resource extraction.

Robbie D. C. Mallett et al.

 
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Robbie D. C. Mallett et al.

Robbie D. C. Mallett et al.

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Short summary
We re-estimate pan-Arctic sea ice thickness (SIT) values by combining data from the Envisat and CryoSat-2 missions with data from a new, reanalysis-driven snow model. Because a decreasing amount of ice is being hidden below the waterline by the weight of overlying snow, we argue that SIT may be declining faster than previously calculated in some regions. Because the snow product varies from year to year, our new SIT calculations also display much more year-to year variability.