Arctic ice area for 2008 getting close to the extreme minimum of 2007

The ice area minimum in the Arctic happens every year in mid to late September, when the melting season in the Arctic is over. Even though the ice area today is about 100.000 km2 above last year’s minimum, both the Northeast- and Northwest passages are ice free, something that has probably not happened since before the last Ice Age, 100.000 – 125.000 years ago.

The Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre in Bergen, Norway continuously monitor the ice conditions in the Arctic using satellite observations. The Centre receives new satellite observations on a daily basis. These are used to calculate both ice extent and ice area in the Arctic. Ice extent is defined as the total ice coverage with ice concentrations of 15% or more.
Annual variation in atmospheric temperature is one of the main climate indicators. Arctic ice area is also an important climate indicator. In average, the ice area in the Arctic varies between 13-14 mill. km2 in March every year, to between 5-6 mill km2 in September (see figure 1 in pressrelease). During the 2007 extreme, the ice area fell below 4 mill. km2, and if the current melt rate continues, this years minimum will be close to last years.

Already in 2004, the Nansen Centre indicated that the Arctic would be ice-free during summer during this century, based on global climate models. Climate models used by the IPCC have since verified this. Present studies of the Arctic ice, indicate however that the ice during summer will disappear more rapidly than the IPCC predicts.

The 2007 extreme year was characterized by long, cloud-free periods over the Arctic and prevailing, warm winds from the Bering Sea, that both contributed to the ice melt and packed the ice toward the North Pole.
Studies are underway to explain why we in 2008 are getting close to last years minimum. We observe however, that one important difference this year is that both the Northeast- and Northwest passages are simultaneously ice-free, something which probably has not occurred since before the last Ice Age, 100.000-125.000 years ago, when the temperature was 3-4 degrees higher than today.

In addition to the meteorological conditions, the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere plays an important role in respect to Arctic ice area. In a paper to be published in October 2008 by Prof. Ola M. Johannssen, NERSC (2008, attached), a good correlation between annual values of CO2 increase related to decrease in Arctic ice area is shown. This relation shows a more rapid decrease in Arctic Ice area than the IPCC claim.

The Nansen Centre coordinates an international research program, Arctic Regional Ocean Observing System (Arctic ROOS), where, among other tasks, the ice conditions in the Arctic are continuously monitored. Observations and forecasts are updated daily on the internet;
• Website: http://www.arctic-roos.org.
• Observations: http://arctic-roos.org/observations/satellite-data/sea-ice/ice-area-and-...
• Climatology/animation: http://arctic-roos.org/observations/satellite-data/sea-ice/copy_of_total...
• Images: http://arctic-roos.org/observations/satellite-data/sea-ice/copy_of_ice-a...

Bergen, September 7, 2008,
For more information contact:
Ola M. Johannessen, tlf +47 901 35 336

For images, mm, contact:
Tor I. Olaussen, tlf. +47 917 369 63

The pressrelease is available at:

ftp://ftp.nersc.no/Press/NERSC%20Presserelease-ice%20area%202008_en.pdf