Minimum sea ice volume

Quite often when discussing arctic sea ice, people refer to the area of the sea ice. It would seem, to me, that it is actually the volume that is what is important as it tells you how much ice is being lost and hence how much energy is being used to melt the ice (and then how much is released when it refreezes). The image below is one I found that shows the change in sea ice volume since 1979. What is important, in my view, is that both the minimum and maximum are changing with time. If the maximum remained constant then the net amount of energy absorbed (when it melts) would be the same – on average – as the amount released (when it refreezes). That both are decreasing with time tells us that net amount of energy being absorbed is increasing with time. This, of course, also ignores the decrease in albedo due to the reduction in ice cover and hence the enhanced absorption by the now uncovered sea water.

Change in arctic sea ice volume with time, since 1979.

Change in arctic sea ice volume with time, since 1979.

What motivated me to write this was an interesting video illustrating the change in the minimum sea ice volume. Quite dramatic, in my opinion.

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4 Responses to Minimum sea ice volume

  1. Rachel says:

    Where did you get that graph? Unfortunately, woodfortrees only offers the sea ice area.

  2. I found it just using a google search for “sea ice volume”. I have a feeling, however, that it might mostly be a model or simulation (PIOMAS according to one thing I found) based on certain measurements. I did find one version that had some data (from CryoSat2) overlaid that was consistent with this for the last few years. I did try to find out more about it, but haven’t yet managed to find out much more.

    I get the impression that measurements of the volume (rather than area) have only been available for a short while, which may be why people often refer to the area rather than the volume.

  3. You’re right, it is volume from PIOMAS, if you want you can replace it with a chart I just drew up that I think shows the trend a bit more clearly:

  4. Thanks for the comment. Your link seems to work fine, so I may just leave the existing figure and others can follow your link if they’re interested.

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