Book published: Sea Ice in the Arctic- Past, Present and Future

The book “Sea Ice in the Arctic - Past, Present and Future” gathers scientific knowledge and practical expertise’s in the sea ice research, monitoring and forecasting in the Arctic waters built up at the Nansen Centers in Bergen and St. Petersburg over the last three decades. It has been edited by Ola M. Johannessen (Nansen Scientific Society), Leonid P. Bobylev (NIERSC), Elena Shalina (NIERSC) and Stein Sandven (NERSC/UNIS), with contributions from 24 authors. The book is the 11th book published by Springer Verlag with major contributions from scientists at the two Nansen Centers in St. Petersburg and Bergen.

Cover: Sea Ice in the Arctic - Past, Present and Future.Cover: Sea Ice in the Arctic - Past, Present and Future.In the Foreword European Space Agency Director of Earth Observation Josef Aschbacher highlights the global impact of what is happening in the Arctic ”on the heat exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere, a critical influence on the high-latitude atmosphere and fresh water balance, and essential role in regulating the global thermohaline circulation”. Being very timely and relevant the book further provides “essential information and assesses the current situation of Arctic sea ice. Sketching out the long-term perspectives …..” of the future changes in the Arctic.


Through 12 chapters the book reviews the variability of the sea ice cover and climatic development in the Arctic from geological timescales to present as well as projections for the future. The book starts with discussing the reconstructions of natural in paleoenvironmental proxy records and historical records of sea ice variability during last thousand years and reminding us that paleo-data indicates that the Arctic Ocean was ice-free 50-60 million year ago. Further it documents the development of the use of satellite Earth observations in monitoring and forecasting the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas. This development spans over the first satellite mission more than four decades ago to the contemporary operational monitoring and forecasting services through the European Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service (CMEMS).

Knowledge of the Marginal Ice Zone (MIZ) - the transition between the open ocean and the interior pack ice - is essential to understand the thermo-dynamic processes of the ocean and sea ice in the Arctic. The ocean-ice-atmospheric interactions in the MIZ is accordingly addressed in detail in one chapter describing important processes and how these can be parametrized in modelling.

The large-scale variability of the ice cover in the Arctic became widely known to the public with the launch of microwave satellite in the 1970ties. However, through studies of historical ice charts the book addresses the ice variability back to the 1500´s. The unprecedented Arctic sea ice declined observed in the recent decades is described and analysed in comparison with the longer-term historical records.

Sea ice thickness and extent describe the volume of the sea ice, which influence the regional heat and freshwater budgets, patterns of atmospheric circulation and in turn also the climate variability of the Arctic. The book describes methods of measurement, its uncertainties, and the actual analysis of sea ice thickness measurements through ice drilling, various in-water sonar instrumentations to the capabilities of using airborne and satellite sensor technologies.

Availability of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) has significantly improved the all-weather and year around capability to monitor and classify different sea ice types and to retrieve sea ice emotion. Various methods, including neural network and support vector machine algorithms, for automated classification of ice type information from the normalized radar cross section data are presented, including their validation and discussion of advantages and limitations.

In addition to freezing and melting the sea ice dynamics is essential for the distribution of sea ice in the Arctic, driven by the wind regime, ocean currents, water exchange and freshwater runoff. Two main observational data sets for sea ice drift studies and analyses are presented - the IFREMER and Pathfinder – and analysed using a vectorial-algebraic approach to retrieve the ice-drift information. The chapter on sea ice drift also describes the interannual variability of the large-scale ice circulation in the Arctic Ocean based on multi-year satellite monitoring data under different synoptic atmospheric conditions and processes.

Modelling of sea ice requires thorough understanding of the relevant processes and their spatial and time scales of the variability to be parametrized. Based on the fundamental laws of thermodynamics and dynamics and the conservation of ice the readers are introduced to basic and applied methods for sea ice modelling, including its ocean and atmospheric forcing. Key parametrization of exchange of momentum, heat, moisture, salinity and ice rheology are discussed. Simulations of sea ice in climate models, such as CMIP , and operational modelling and data assimilation in forecasting services are presented. A chapter is dedicated to the operational daily 10 days forecasting of ocean currents, sea ice, marine biogeochemistry and waves for the entire Arctic Ocean. This operational model system is based on the TOPAZ configuration, developed at the Nansen Center, of the HYCOM model, coupled to sea-ice model and a marine ecosystem model using an Ensemble Kalman Filter data assimilation scheme for integrating observations of along-track sea level anomalies, sea-surface temperatures, sea-ice concentrations, sea-ice drift, sea-ice thickness and in situ temperature and salinity profiles. This Arctic Monitoring and Forecasting Center (ARC MFC) constitutes the Arctic component of the European Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service.

Coupled global models are the major objective tools available to provide future climate projections based on physical laws that govern ocean, atmosphere and sea ice circulation. All climate models, forced with increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gasses, simulates presentient reductions in the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. However, the rate of projects sea ice losses resolves considerable differences between the models, which are caused by different assumptions for external forcing, internally generated variability and inter-model differences in parametrization of ocean, atmospheric and land physics. The chapter on the projected sea ice conditions in the Arctic during this century, also includes results documenting the impact of the seasonal variability sea-ice cover, in e.g. the Barents-Kara Seas, have as a driver for the extremely cold winter weather over Eurasia in recent years.

The chapter on climate change impact on the Arctic economy starts with a brief assessment of the current scientific and operational use of satellite Earth observations (EO) for monitoring of the Arctic Ocean, focusing on the scientific data and applications presented in this book. Their relevance to international programs contributes to demonstrate the societal benefits and economic value of the use of satellite EO monitoring in the Arctic. Direct impact of changes in the Arctic on the economy is discussed through an assessment of the potential use and exploitation of its natural resources. The chapter includes a, on purpose, selected and limited discussion on the impact on the current status and future of the oil-and-gas offshore industry, marine transportation and to some extent potential fisheries in the Arctic seas. The impact of these changes in the Arctic are also discussed in an economic modelling perspectives as well as related to climate-related risks for the development of the economy in the Arctic.

The annex to the book includes a manual with a selection of interpretations of sea ice signatures resolved in Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data, covering the European sector of the Arctic from the east coast of Greenland to the western Laptev Sea in Russia. The examples cover various seasons and year and includes the most important types of ice, such as multiyear ice, first-year ice, and various stages of young and new ice, as well as processes in the ice-edge region and the ice-edge response to wind variations. The interpretation guide is a useful guide and introduction to interpret satellite data used in e.g. operational monitoring and navigation in sea ice.

Throughout the book references to actual data sets used are given, allowing for further studies and analysis.

Citation: Johannessen, O.M., L.P. Bobylev, E.V. Shalina, S. Sandven (Eds.) (2020): Sea Ice in the Arctic: Past, Present and Future. Springer Polar series. Springer International Publishing. ISBN 978-3-030-21300-8. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-21301-5. 575pp.

About the Editors.