What is the trend in the extent of Arctic and Baltic sea ice?

Policy Question
Indicator codes: CLIM 010
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Key messages

(22 Nov 2016)

  • The extent and volume of the Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly since global data became available, especially in summer. Over the period 1979–2015, the Arctic has lost, on average, 42 000 km2 of sea ice per year in winter and 89 000 km2 per year by the end of summer.
  • The nine lowest Arctic sea ice minima since records began in 1979 have been the September ice cover in each of the last nine years (2007–2015);  the record low Arctic sea ice cover in September 2012 was roughly half the average minimum extent of 1981–2010. The annual maximum ice cover in March 2015 and March 2016 were the lowest on record, and the ice is also getting thinner.
  • The maximum sea ice extent in the Baltic Sea shows a decreasing trend since about 1800. The decrease appears to have accelerated since the 1980s, but the interannual variability is large.
  • Arctic sea ice is projected to continue to shrink and thin. For high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, a nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean in September is likely before mid-century. There will still be substantial ice in winter.
  • Baltic Sea ice, in particular the extent of the maximal cover, is projected to continue to shrink.

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