Skip to content

Arctic Ice Pause Enters Ninth Year

Dr David Whitehouse

One of the major items of climate news in the past week or so has been the minimum Arctic ice extent that is reached in September each year.

Worldwide there were hundreds of reports all saying the same thing; Arctic sea ice reaches the fourth record low. After last year’s increase in minimal ice extent the 2015 figure was treated as a return to the normal decline. The long-term decline is reinforced said some scientists adding this is what climate change looks like.

The Washington Post was typical the Arctic was, it said, “far from recovering.” One reporter however did ask a pertinent question. Are the minimums getting more minimal? It’s a question we asked in July when we showed, as others had already pointed out in the peer-reviewed literature that the minimum extent of the Arctic ice had not changed significantly for eight years up to 2014.

So, what difference does the data from 2015 make? Fig 1 (click on the image to enlarge) shows the extent of Arctic ice, whilst Fig 2 shows the extent of ice in the northern hemisphere (millions of sq km)

Fig 1

Fig 1.

Fig 2

Fig 2

It has been said that one year’s data doesn’t really make any difference. In general that is true, but it is not always the case. This year’s data continues the “pause” or “hiatus” or whatever one wants to call it. If global warming was really taking hold in the Arctic with force – a force stronger in recent years because of the ever-increasing CO2 levels – I don’t think it would have resulted in no change in Arctic ice minima for almost a decade. One explanation could be that it’s natural variability preventing the decline, but if that’s so, why are so many scientists saying the decline is continuing and that 2015 reinforces that view?