2011 lowest ice maximum remains uncertain – Arctic April makes cold start

On March 23 the NSIDC reported the annual sea ice maximum (end of winter season) in the Arctic Ocean had been reached some two weeks earlier, on March 7. The daily satellite measurements showed this year’s ice extent to be 1.2 million square kilometres below the 1979-2000 average, yet another melting record, although in statistical tie with 2006.

The US Arctic watchdog had observed 5 consecutive days of declining ice extent up to March 22 – and a clear visual suggestion the 2011 ice graph had indeed peaked.

However towards the end of March the Artic Oscillation moved into an increasingly positive phase – allowing the North Pole to retain much of its cold air – and winter to return for a few more days. We now see the sea ice actually expanding a little and getting close to the March 7 maximum.

Judging by the NOAA AO index forecast the Arctic seems in for another cold week at the beginning of April. The 2006 ‘lowest ice maximum’ record may just hold out for a few more years – presenting us climate reporters with some breathing space after record-breaking year 2010. We will keep you up to date on all accounts.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm | www.bitsofscience.org

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