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Keywords:

  • sea ice;
  • melt;
  • Arctic

[1] In order to explore changes and trends in the timing of Arctic sea ice melt onset and freezeup, and therefore melt season length, we developed a method that obtains this information directly from satellite passive microwave data, creating a consistent data set from 1979 through present. We furthermore distinguish between early melt (the first day of the year when melt is detected) and the first day of continuous melt. A similar distinction is made for the freezeup. Using this method we analyze trends in melt onset and freezeup for 10 different Arctic regions. In all regions except for the Sea of Okhotsk, which shows a very slight and statistically insignificant positive trend (0.4 d decade−1), trends in melt onset are negative, i.e., toward earlier melt. The trends range from −1.0 d decade−1 for the Bering Sea to −7.3 d decade−1 for the East Greenland Sea. Except for the Sea of Okhotsk all areas also show a trend toward later autumn freeze onset. The Chukchi/Beaufort seas and Laptev/East Siberian seas observe the strongest trends with 7 d decade−1. For the entire Arctic, the melt season length has increased by about 20 days over the last 30 years. Largest trends of over 10 d decade−1 are seen for Hudson Bay, the East Greenland Sea, the Laptev/East Siberian seas, and the Chukchi/Beaufort seas. Those trends are statistically significant at the 99% level.