Arctic and Baltic Sea ice
Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
Observed changes in the extent of Arctic Sea ice provide early evidence of global climate warming. Sea ice is a habitat for endemic species in a unique ecosystem, and it also plays an important role for the pelagic ecosystem in the open ocean. Species specialised to live in conditions dominated by sea ice are affected and this can also affect use of living natural resources. Reduced polar sea ice will speed up global warming and is expected to affect ocean circulation and weather patterns across northern Europe.
The projected loss of sea ice may offer new economic opportunities for oil and gas exploration, shipping, tourism and some types of fishery. Most of these activities would increase pressure on, and risks to, the Arctic environment.
- UNEP, 2007. Global outlook for ice and snow. UNEP Arendal/ Nairobi 2007.
- IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp.
- Arctic Climate Issues 2011: Changes in Arctic Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost AMAP, 2012. Arctic Climate Issues 2011: Changes in Arctic Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost. SWIPA 2011 Overview Report.
- Trend in Arctic sea ice extent in March and September
- Maximum ice cover extent in the Baltic Sea
- Projected changes in Nothern Hemisphere sea ice extent
Policy context and targets
In April 2013 the European Commission presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/adaptation/what/documentation_en.htm). This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change /* COM/2013/0216 final */ and a number of supporting documents. One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which should occur through Bridging the knowledge gap and Further developing Climate-ADAPT as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Further objectives include Promoting action by Member States and Climate-proofing EU action: promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors. Many EU Member States have already taken action, such as by adopting national adaptation strategies, and several have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation.
The European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT, http://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/) to share knowledge on observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health; on relevant research; on EU, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans; and on adaptation case studies.
No targets have been specified.
Related policy documents
Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
DG CLIMA: Adaptation to climate change
Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives later. This webportal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
EU Adaptation Strategy Package
In April 2013 the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change which has been welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it will enhance the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.
Key policy question
What is the trend in the extent of Arctic and Baltic Sea ice?
Methodology for indicator calculation
Input data was available from the EUMETSAT OSI SAF reanalysis project, in which a consistent time series of daily, gridded data for sea ice concentration is made from the passive microwave sensors SMMR and SSM/I data, monthly aggregated sea ice products are generated by CryoClim.
The annual maximum ice extent in the Baltic Sea was estimated utilizing the material of the Finnish operational ice service from the winters of 1945-1995 and information collected by Prof. Jurva from the winters of 1720-1940. The latter originated from various sources, including observations at lighthouses, old newspapers, records on travel on ice,scientific articles, and air temperature data from Stockholm and Helsinki.
Projections for Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent were derived from the CMIP5 ensemble experiment.
The graphs show the data as delivered; Trend lines were added.
Methodology for gap filling
- Assessment of Climate Change for the Baltic Sea Basin BACC Author Team, 2008. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg;
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
- CMIP5 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project
- Maximum Annual Extent of Ice Cover in the Baltic Sea since 1720
- Time series of sea ice extent in the Arctic
Data sources in latest figures
Data sets uncertainty
Data on the cryosphere vary significantly with regard to availability and quality. Snow and ice cover have been monitored globally since satellite measurements started in the 1970s. Improvements in technology allow for more detailed observations and higher resolution.
Further information on uncertainties is provided in Section 1.7 of the EEA report on Climate change, impacts, and vulnerability in Europe 2012 (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/climate-impacts-and-vulnerability-2012/)
No uncertainty has been specified
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoHans-Martin Füssel
Frequency of updates
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)