Climate observations inform about the past and present state of the climate system. They underpin climate science, feed into policies for adaptation and mitigation, and increase awareness of the impacts of climate change. The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), a body of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), assesses the maturity of the required observing system and gives guidance for its development. The Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) are central to GCOS, and the global community must monitor them with the highest standards in the form of Climate Data Records (CDR). Today, a single ECV-the sea ice ECV-encapsulates all aspects of the sea ice environment. In the early 1990s it was a single variable (sea ice concentration) but is today an umbrella for four variables (adding thickness, edge/extent, and drift). In this contribution, we argue that GCOS should from now on consider a set of seven ECVs (sea ice concentration, thickness, snow depth, surface temperature, surface albedo, age, and drift). These seven ECVs are critical and cost effective to monitor with existing satellite Earth observation capability. We advise against placing these new variables under the umbrella of the single sea ice ECV. To start a set of distinct ECVs is indeed critical to avoid adding to the suboptimal situation we experience today and to reconcile the sea ice variables with the practice in other ECV domains.