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Change and variability in sea ice during the 2007–2008 Canadian International Polar Year program


  • David Barber


  • Matthew Asplin
  • Richard Raddatz
  • Lauren Candlish
  • Scot Nickels
  • Stephanie Meakin
  • Klaus Hochheim
  • Jennifer Lukovich
  • Ryan Galley
  • Simon Prinsenberg


In this paper we describe sea ice change and variability during the Canadian International Polar Year (IPY) program and examine several regional and hemispheric causes of this change. In a companion paper (Barber et al., Climate Change 2012 ) we present an overview of the consequences of this observed change and variability on ecosystem function, climatically relevant gas exchange, habitats of primary and apex predators, and impacts on northern peoples. Sea ice-themed research projects within the fourth IPY were designed to be among the most diverse international science programs. They greatly enhanced the exchange of Inuit knowledge and scientific ideas across nations and disciplines. This interdisciplinary and cultural exchange helped to explain and communicate the impacts of a transition of the Arctic Ocean and ecosystem to a seasonally ice-free state, the commensurate replacement of perennial with annual sea ice types and the causes and consequences of this globally significant metamorphosis. This paper presents a synthesis of scientific sea ice research and traditional knowledge results from Canadian-led IPY projects between 2007 and 2009. In particular, a summary of sea ice trends, basin-wide and regional, is presented in conjunction with Inuit knowledge of sea ice, gathered from communities in northern Canada. We focus on the recent observed changes in sea ice and discuss some of the causes of this change including atmospheric and oceanic forcing of both dynamic and thermodynamic forcing on the ice. Pertinent results include: 1) In the Amundsen Gulf, at the western end of the Northwest Passage, open water persists longer than normal and winter sea ice is thinner and more mobile. 2) Large areas of summer sea ice are becoming heavily decayed during summer and can be broken up by long-period waves being generated in the now extensive open water areas of the Chukchi Sea. 3) Cyclones play an important role in flaw leads—regions of open water between pack ice and land-fast ice. They delay the formation of new ice and the growth of multi-year ice. 4) Feedbacks involving the increased period of open water, long-period wave generation, increased open-ocean roughness, and the precipitation of autumn snow are all partially responsible for the observed reduction in multiyear sea ice. 5) The atmosphere is observed as remaining generally stable throughout the winter, preventing vertical entrainment of moisture above the surface. Copyright The Author(s) 2012

Suggested Citation

  • David Barber & Matthew Asplin & Richard Raddatz & Lauren Candlish & Scot Nickels & Stephanie Meakin & Klaus Hochheim & Jennifer Lukovich & Ryan Galley & Simon Prinsenberg, 2012. "Change and variability in sea ice during the 2007–2008 Canadian International Polar Year program," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 115(1), pages 115-133, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:115:y:2012:i:1:p:115-133
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0477-6

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