Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Remote Sensing 2014, 6, 11283-11314.



Copyright © 2014, the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Open access, Creative Commons Attribution license 4.0.


Variability in snow melt onset (MO) on Arctic sea ice since 1979 is examined by determining the area of sea ice experiencing the onset of melting during the melt season on a daily basis. The daily MO area of the snow and ice surface is determined from passive microwave satellite-derived MO dates for the Arctic Ocean and sub-regions. Annual accumulations of MO area are determined by summing the time series of daily MO area through the melt season. Daily areas and annual accumulations of MO area highlight inter-annual and regional variability in the timing of MO area, which is sensitive to day-to-day variations in spring weather conditions. Two distinct spatial patterns in MO area accumulations including an intense, fast accumulating melt area pattern and a slow accumulating melt pattern are examined for two melting events in the Kara Sea. In comparing the 34 years of MO dates for the Arctic Ocean and sub-regions, melt accumulations have changed during the period. In the earlier years, 1979–1987, the MO generally was later in the year than the mean, while in more recent years, the MO accumulations have been occurring earlier in the melt season. The sub-regions of the Arctic Ocean also exhibit greater annual variability than the Arctic Ocean.