Annual and winter (December–April) sea-ice area and extent are calculated for the Greenland Sea (GS) and Barents Sea (BS) from daily ice concentrations obtained from space-borne microwave radiometry for 1979–2003. The ice extent decreases significantly, particularly during winter, by 65 000 km2 (decade)–1 in the GS and by 72 000 km2 (decade)–1 in the BS. Ice-extent fractions (of these total extents) occupied by ice of five different ice-concentration ranges are calculated and analyzed. Changes in these fractions are again significant and most pronounced during winter. In the GS, the fraction of close to very compact ice (65–95%) decreases by 17 000 km2 (decade)–1 and the fraction of very compact ice (>95%) increases by 29 000 km2 (decade)–1, corresponding to a loss of 19% and a gain of 58% relative to the 25 year mean, respectively. In the BS, the fraction of close to compact ice (65–85%) increases by 26 000km2 (decade)–1 and the fraction with compact to very compact ice (>85%) decreases by 66 000 km2 (decade)–1, corresponding to a gain of 30% and a loss of 67% relative to the 25 year mean, respectively. The changing surface wind pattern analyzed from ERA-40 data favours this increasing (decreasing) ice compactness in the GS (BS).