On the Pause in Global Sea Ice Anomalies

I just finished the illustrations and text for another chapter of my upcoming book. The latest was about sea ice data. I believe you’ll be interested in one of the topics from that chapter.  As noted in the title of the post, the topic is the “pause” in global sea ice extent anomalies.

It is well known that there have been gains in sea ice extent and area in the Southern Hemisphere during the satellite era.  Those gains have been exceeded by the losses in sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere, so that globally there has been an overall decrease in sea ice extent and area.

There was a resurgence of sea ice globally in 2013 and 2014, however.  That recent resurgence allows us to present the data in another way.  We can use a linear trend analysis, starting in April 2015, to determine how far back in time we can go while the global sea ice extent data show no losses or no gains.  See Figure 1.  Based on the linear trend, there has been no loss (or gain) in global sea ice extent for 178 months…almost 15 years.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Note:  Anomalies were calculated against the WMO-preferred period of 1981-2010.

Let me try to counter in advance the misdirection by the CO2 obsessed.

You’ll note that the anomalies on average over that time period are about 400 thousand sq. km below the average for base years of 1981-2010.  Keep in mind two things, though. (1) The average global sea ice extent for that period is about 23 million sq. km.  On a percentage basis, 400 thousand sq. km is less than 2% of 23 million sq. km. (2) Annual global sea ice extent anomalies have been positive in 2013 and 2014. In other words, for the past 2 years, global sea ice extent has been above, not below, the average for the period of 1981-2010.  In fact, global sea ice extent anomalies in 2014 are comparable to those 3 decades ago in 1980 and 1981. See Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2


Global sea ice extent anomaly data are quite volatile.  In coming years, the global sea ice extent anomalies could once again fall below “normal”.   That, of course, would reduce the length of the pause. Then again, the very noticeable recent increase in global sea ice extent could very well continue.

One thing is for sure:  global sea ice is not cooperating with the climate models used by the IPCC for their prognostications of gloom and doom.


The NSIDC sea ice extent data are available in “daily” form during the satellite era.  In reality, the daily data only cover the period from July 9, 1987 to present, while, from October 26, 1978 to July 7, 1987, they were supplied every two days. They require a little effort to put them into monthly and annual formats.  The Northern Hemisphere data are available here, and the Southern Hemisphere data are here. The NSIDC maintain the data up-to-date at those links. For documentation, see the Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice Concentrations from Multichannel Passive-Microwave Satellite Data Sets: October 1978 – September 1995 – User’s Guide.

About Bob Tisdale

Research interest: the long-term aftereffects of El Niño and La Nina events on global sea surface temperature and ocean heat content. Author of the ebook Who Turned on the Heat? and regular contributor at WattsUpWithThat.
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26 Responses to On the Pause in Global Sea Ice Anomalies

  1. Neville says:

    It’s interesting how much warmer the early holocene temps were across northern Russia and Siberia. Here’s the abstract from the 2000 MacDonald et al study. Temps may have been from 2.5c to 7c higher than today. I just wonder how much Arctic ice was left during this Holocene climate optimum? Of course this lasted for thousands of years and co2 levels were presumably around 280ppmv.

    Research Institute for Marine Geology and Geophysics, Riga, Latvia LV-1226
    Received March 9, 1999
    Radiocarbon-dated macrofossils are used to document Holocene
    treeline history across northern Russia (including Siberia). Boreal
    forest development in this region commenced by 10,000 yr B.P.
    Over most of Russia, forest advanced to or near the current arctic
    coastline between 9000 and 7000 yr B.P. and retreated to its
    present position by between 4000 and 3000 yr B.P. Forest establishment
    and retreat was roughly synchronous across most of
    northern Russia. Treeline advance on the Kola Peninsula, however,
    appears to have occurred later than in other regions. During
    the period of maximum forest extension, the mean July temperatures
    along the northern coastline of Russia may have been 2.5° to
    7.0°C warmer than modern. The development of forest and expansion
    of treeline likely reflects a number of complimentary
    environmental conditions, including heightened summer insolation,
    the demise of Eurasian ice sheets, reduced sea-ice cover,
    greater continentality with eustatically lower sea level, and extreme
    Arctic penetration of warm North Atlantic waters. The late
    Holocene retreat of Eurasian treeline coincides with declining
    summer insolation, cooling arctic waters, and neoglaciation.
    © 2000 University of Washington.
    Key Words: treeline; climate change; Holocene; arctic; Russia;
    Siberia; macrofossils.

    Here’s a link to the study. http://epic.awi.de/4164/1/Mac2000c.pdf

  2. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks, Neville.

  3. Thanks, Bob.
    A wider perspective on sea ice extension is valuable.

  4. mwhite says:

    Cooling in the North Atlantic??? Must have some effect on the arctic??

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