Arctic Marginal Ice Melting May 15

In the chart below MASIE shows Arctic ice extent is below average and lower than 2015 at this point in the year.

MASIE 2016 day136

Looking into the details, it is clear that the marginal seas are melting earlier than last year, while the central ice pack is holding steady.

Ice Extents Ice Extent
Region 2015136 2016136 km2 Diff.
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 12585032 12116610 -468423
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1033428 942536 -90892
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 930045 933354 3309
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087137 1087120 -17
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 897809 -36
 (5) Kara_Sea 899673 864423 -35250
 (6) Barents_Sea 337707 222091 -115616
 (7) Greenland_Sea 615714 575320 -40395
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1201099 1015356 -185743
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 833900 830174 -3726
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1175953 1185893 9940
 (11) Central_Arctic 3237268 3198923 -38345
 (12) Bering_Sea 153646 160277 6630
 (13) Baltic_Sea 66 2839 2774
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 180119 198519 18400

Another difference this year is the Beaufort Gyre cranking up ten days ago, compacting ice and reducing extent by about 150k km2, and putting the loss ahead of last year.  As Susan Crockford points out (here), this is not melting but ice breaking up and moving. Of course, warmists predict that will result in more melting later on, which remains to be seen. In any case, Beaufort extent is down 12% from max, which amounts to 1% of the NH ice loss so far.


Comparing the Arctic seas extents with their maximums shows the melting at the margins:

2016136 NH Max Loss % Loss Sea Max % NH Loss
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 2960990 19.64%
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 127909 11.95% 1%
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 32636 3.38% 0%
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 0 0.00% 0%
 (4) Laptev_Sea 0 0.00% 0%
 (5) Kara_Sea 70565 7.55% 0%
 (6) Barents_Sea 377288 62.95% 3%
 (7) Greenland_Sea 84393 12.79% 1%
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 629226 38.26% 4%
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 23004 2.70% 0%
 (10) Hudson_Bay 74977 5.95% 1%
 (11) Central_Arctic 47787 1.47% 0%
 (12) Bering_Sea 607955 79.14% 4%
 (13) Baltic_Sea 94743 97.09% 1%
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 1110178 84.83% 8%

It is clear from the above that the bulk of ice losses are coming from Okhotsk, Barents and Bering Seas, along with Baffin Bay-St. Lawrence; all of them are marginal seas that will go down close to zero by September.  The entire difference between 2016 and 2015 arises from Okhotsk starting with about 500k km2 more ice this year, and arriving at this date virtually tied with 2015.

Note: Some seas are not at max on the NH max day.  Thus, totals from adding losses will vary from NH daily total.

AER says this about the Arctic Oscillation (AO):

Currently, the AO is negative and is predicted to slowly trend towards neutral (Figure 1). The current negative AO is reflective of positive geopotential height anomalies across much of the Arctic, especially the North Atlantic side and mostly negative geopotential height anomalies across the mid-latitudes.

September Minimum Outlook

Historically, where will ice be remaining when Arctic melting stops? Over the last 10 years, on average MASIE shows the annual minimum occurring about day 260. Of course in a given year, the daily minimum varies slightly a few days +/- from that.

For comparison, here are sea ice extents reported from 2007, 2012, 2014 and 2015 for day 260:

Arctic Regions 2007 2012 2014 2015
Central Arctic Sea 2.67 2.64 2.98 2.93
BCE 0.50 0.31 1.38 0.89
Greenland & CAA 0.56 0.41 0.55 0.46
Bits & Pieces 0.32 0.04 0.22 0.15
NH Total 4.05 3.40 5.13 4.44

Notes: Extents are in M km2.  BCE region includes Beaufort, Chukchi and Eastern Siberian seas. Greenland Sea (not the ice sheet). Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA).  Locations of the Bits and Pieces vary.

As the table shows, low NH minimums come mainly from ice losses in Central Arctic and BCE.  The great 2012 cyclone hit both in order to set the recent record. The recovery since 2012 shows in 2014, with some dropoff last year, mostly in BCE.


We are only beginning the melt season, and the resulting minimum will depend upon the vagaries of weather between now and September.  At the moment, 2016 was slightly higher than 2015 in March, and is now trending toward a lower May extent.  OTOH 2016 melt season is starting without the Blob, with a declining El Nino, and a cold blob in the North Atlantic.  The AO is presently neutral, giving no direction whether cloud cover will reduce the pace of melting or not.  Meanwhile we can watch and appreciate the beauty of the changing ice conditions.

Waves and sea ice in the Arctic marginal zone.




  1. oiltranslator · May 16

    Until such time as Cassandras are willing to tell bookies in England and Ireland how much they will bet on their forecasts, “prophesies may perhaps be a better word than “predictions.” The ideal term would be “bets,” if they were serious.


  2. hunter · May 18

    After years of following Arctic Ice pack levels nearly daily, I noticed a few things:
    1- The predictions of “death spiral”, “end of pack ice”, etc. are worthless
    2- The impact of what I believe is more properly named “dynamic behavior” of the pack ice on the Arctic environment, Arctic biome, Arctic regional weather and world weather is nil.
    3- The measurements themselves are dubious. The definition of “open water” does not actually correlate very well to open water, for instance
    4- Discussing short interval changes in Arctic ice pack ice levels all too often allows the alarmists to define the discussion and enables more anti-rational alarmism on the part of the climate crisis true believers.
    5- There is no reason to believe that alarmist claims about the Arctic pack ice are any more valid than their many other failed claims about OA, slr, storm frequency, storm intensity, drought, flood, polar bear extinction, penguin extinction, famine, political turmoil, windmills, etc.


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