The step-like evolution of Arctic open water
September open water fraction in the Arctic is analyzed using the satellite era record of ice concentration (1979–2017). Evidence is presented that three breakpoints (shifts in the mean) occurred in the Pacific sector, with higher amounts of open water starting in 1989, 2002, and 2007. Breakpoints in the Atlantic sector record of open water are evident in 1971 in longer records, and around 2000 and 2011. Multiple breakpoints are also evident in the Canadian and Russian halves. Statistical models that use detected breakpoints of the Pacific and Atlantic sectors, as well as models with breakpoints in the Canadian and Russian halves and the Arctic as a whole, outperform linear trend models in fitting the data. From a physical standpoint, the results support the thesis that Arctic sea ice may have critical points beyond which a return to the previous state is less likely. From an analysis standpoint, the findings imply that de-meaning the data using the breakpoint means is less likely to cause spurious signals than employing a linear detrend.
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