Changes in Arctic melt season and implications for sea ice loss



The Arctic-wide melt season has lengthened at a rate of 5 days decade−1 from 1979 to 2013, dominated by later autumn freezeup within the Kara, Laptev, East Siberian, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas between 6 and 11 days decade−1. While melt onset trends are generally smaller, the timing of melt onset has a large influence on the total amount of solar energy absorbed during summer. The additional heat stored in the upper ocean of approximately 752 MJ m−2 during the last decade increases sea surface temperatures by 0.5 to 1.5 °C and largely explains the observed delays in autumn freezeup within the Arctic Ocean's adjacent seas. Cumulative anomalies in total absorbed solar radiation from May through September for the most recent pentad locally exceed 300–400 MJ m−2 in the Beaufort, Chukchi, and East Siberian seas. This extra solar energy is equivalent to melting 0.97 to 1.3 m of ice during the summer.