Abrupt decline in the Arctic winter sea ice cover



[1] Although the Arctic perennial ice cover has been on a rapid decline, the winter ice cover had been unexpectedly stable. We report and provide insights into a remarkable turn of events, with the observation of record low ice extent and area during the winters of 2005 and 2006. Negative ice anomalies in these years are prevalent in the peripheral seas but are most dominant in the eastern Arctic basin where the perennial ice becomes even more vulnerable to further decline. Overall, the winter ice anomalies correlate well with surface temperature anomalies and wind circulation patterns. Since historical satellite data indicate a positive trend in winter temperatures and a negative trend in the length of seasonal ice growth period, it is likely that the winter ice cover will continue to retreat in the near future. Results suggest that the expected warming impact of greenhouse gases is becoming apparent in the Arctic during the dark winter months.