Abrupt transitions in Arctic open water area Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract. September open water fraction in the Arctic is analyzed using the satellite era record of ice concentration (1979–2014). This analysis suggests that there is a statistically significant breakpoint (shift in the mean) and increase in the variance around 1988 and another breakpoint around 2007 in the Pacific sector. These structural breaks are robust to the choice of algorithm used for deriving sea ice concentration from satellite data, and are also apparent in other measures of open water, such as operational ice charts and the record of navigable days from Barrow to Prudhoe Bay. Breakpoints in the Atlantic sector record of open water are evident in 1988 and 2007 but more weakly significant. The breakpoints appear to be associated with concomitant shifts in average ice age, and tend to lead change in Arctic circulation regimes. These results support the thesis that Arctic sea ice may have critical points beyond which a return to the previous state is less likely.;

publication date

  • May 10, 2016

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • June 15, 2021 1:28 AM

Full Author List

  • Goldstein MA; Lynch AH; Arbetter TE; Fetterer F

author count

  • 4

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