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Sea ice extent and the sea ice index: Freezing Arctic sea ice through measurement and mediation

Seddon, Laura; Steinberg, Philip


Laura Seddon
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy


Jørgen Alnæs

Synne Tollerud Bull

Liv Hausken

Susanne Østby Sæther


Satellite observations of declining sea-ice extent have emerged as a dominant and seemingly straightforward indicator of climate change – easily representable and comprehensible as a tangible, linear measure of a changing planet. These mediated understandings, although designed to monitor a specific dimension of environmental change, have taken on extended explanatory power in shaping narratives of unprecedented transformations in the Arctic, the High North Atlantic, and wider global systems.
This chapter develops a critical perspective on sea-ice extent as an indicator of climate change. By analysing the scientific practices and technologies underpinning its measurement, we unpack the mediated nature of satellite observations of sea-ice extent to explore how they shape and constrain knowledge of oceanic space. We illustrate how dominant sea-ice measures serve a mediating function, reifying categories and thresholds that appear objective and natural but that, in fact, are established according to situated entanglements of environmental, technological, scientific, and socio-cultural contexts.

Deposit Date Jul 4, 2024
Publisher Routledge
Book Title Media Seas and the Blue Humanities: Studies of the High North Atlantic
Public URL
Contract Date Jun 26, 2024