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20th-century sea-ice variations from observational data

  • John E. Walsh (a1) and William L. Chapman (a1)

Abstract

In order to extend diagnoses of recent sea-ice variations beyond the past few decades, a century-scale digital dataset of Arctic sea-ice coverage has been compiled. For recent decades, the compilation utilizes satellite-derived hemispheric datasets. Regional datasets based primarily on ship reports and aerial reconnaissance are the primary inputs for the earlier part of the 20th century. While the various datasets contain some discrepancies, they capture the same general variations during their period of overlap. The outstanding feature of the time series of total hemispheric ice extent is a decrease that has accelerated during the past several decades. The decrease is greatest in summer and weakest in winter, contrary to the seasonality of the greenhouse changes projected by most global climate models. The primary spatial modes of sea-ice variability diagnosed in terms of empirical orthogonal functions, also show a strong seasonality. The first winter mode is dominated by an opposition of anomalies in the western and eastern North Atlantic, corresponding to the well-documented North Atlantic Oscillation. The primary summer mode depicts an anomaly of the same sign over nearly the entire Arctic and captures the recent trend of sea-ice coverage.

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References

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