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 snow and ice. UNEP Arendal/ Nairobi 2007. [accessed November 2011]
- IPCC 4th Assessment Report 2007 Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007 Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
- Trend in Arctic sea ice extent in March and September
- Maximum ice cover extent in the Baltic Sea
- million km²
Policy context and targets
In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The White Paper stresses the need to improve the knowledge base and to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. The European Commission will be publishing an EU Adaptation Strategy in 2013. A number of Member States have already taken action, and several have prepared national adaptation plans.
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 Climate Action: What is the EU doing about climate change?
Activities of the EU regarding climate change (both mitigation and adaptation)
White paper - Adapting to climate change: towards a European framework for action
EU framework for adaptation to climate change, leading to a comprehensive EU adaptation strategy by 2013
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 1945-1995and information collected by Prof. Jurva from the winters of 1720-1940. The latter originated fromvarious sources, including observations at lighthouses, old newspapers, records on travel on ice,scientific articles, and air temperature data from Stockholm and Helsinki.
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
- Maximum Annual Extent of Ice Cover in the Baltic Sea 1720–1995
- 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
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A – What is happening to the environment and to humans?)