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20th-century sea-ice variations from observational data

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In order to extend diagnoses of recent sea-ice variations beyond the past few decades, a century-scale digital dataset of Arctic sea-ice coverage has been compiled. For recent decades, the compilation utilizes satellite-derived hemispheric datasets. Regional datasets based primarily on ship reports and aerial reconnaissance are the primary inputs for the earlier part of the 20th century. While the various datasets contain some discrepancies, they capture the same general variations during their period of overlap. The outstanding feature of the time series of total hemispheric ice extent is a decrease that has accelerated during the past several decades. The decrease is greatest in summer and weakest in winter, contrary to the seasonality of the greenhouse changes projected by most global climate models. The primary spatial modes of sea-ice variability, diagnosed in terms of empirical orthogonal functions, also show a strong seasonality. The first winter mode is dominated by an opposition of anomalies in the western and eastern North Atlantic, corresponding to the well-documented North Atlantic Oscillation. The primary summer mode depicts an anomaly of the same sign over nearly the entire Arctic and captures the recent trend of sea-ice coverage.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2001

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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