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Satellite-observed variability and trend in sea-ice extent, surface temperature, albedo and clouds in the Arctic

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Recent observations of a decreasing ice extent and a possible thinning of the ice cover in the Arctic make it imperative that detailed studies of the current Arctic environment are made, especially since the region is known to be highly sensitive to a potential change in climate. A continuous dataset of microwave, thermal infrared and visible satellite data has been analyzed for the first time to concurrently study in spatial detail the variability of the sea-ice cover, surface temperature, albedo and cloud statistics in the region from 1987 to 1998. Large warming anomalies during the last four years (i.e. 1995–98) are indeed apparent and spatially more extensive than previous years. The largest surface temperature anomaly occurred in 1998, but this was confined mainly to the western Arctic and the North American continent, while cooling occurred in other areas. The albedo anomalies show good coherence with the sea-ice concentration anomalies except in the central region, where periodic changes in albedo are observed, indicative of interannual changes in duration and areal extent of melt ponding and snow-free ice cover. The cloud-cover anomalies are more difficult to interpret, but are shown to be well correlated with the expected warming effects of clouds on the sea-ice surface. The results from trend analyses of the data are consistent with a general warming trend and an ice-cover retreat that appear to be even larger during the last dozen years than those previously reported.

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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