Satellite data reveal a 20% decline in sea ice extent in the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas in the two decades following 1973. This change is negatively correlated with surface air temperatures on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula, which have increased similar to 0.5 degrees C decade(-1) since the mid-1940s. The recession was strongest during summer, when monthly average minima in 1991-92 removed much of the incipient multiyear ice over the continental shelf. This would have lowered the regional-mean ice thickness, impacting snow ice formation, brine production, and vertical heat flux. The northern ice edge contracted by similar to 1 degrees of latitude in all seasons from 1973-79 to 1987-93, returning toward mean conditions in 1993-95. The decline included multiyear cycles of several years in length, superimposed on high interannual variability. A review of atmospheric forcing shows winds consistent with mean and extreme ice extents, and suggests links to larger-scale circulation changes in the South Pacific. Historical ocean measurements are sparse in this sector, but mixed-layer depths and upper pycnoclines beneath the sea ice resemble those in the Weddell Sea. Weaker surface currents or changes in the upwelling of Circumpolar Deep water on the continental shelf could have contributed to the anomaly persistence.
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