Facts About the Arctic in April 2017

Particularly in view of all the balderdash concerning “climate science” being spouted in Washington DC on Wednesday lets first of all run through some Arctic sea ice facts from April 1st 2017 or thereabouts:

Northern Hemisphere Snow Extent:


Arctic Sea Ice Area:


Arctic Sea Ice Extent:


Arctic Sea Ice Concentration:


Thin ice map from the University of Bremen SMOS:


Thick ice map from CPOM CryoSat-2


Beaufort Sea ice thickness growth graph:


DMI sea ice temperature map:


DMI atmospheric temperature graph:


DMI Arctic Freezing Degree Days:


PIOMAS volume for March will follow in a few days, but it’s extremely unlikely to be anything other than “lowest for the date”.

What preliminary conclusions can we draw from this plethora of pretty pictures? First of all the Arctic hasn’t suddenly gone into “deep freeze” mode. Temperatures above 80 degrees north are rising again and are well above the climatology. Freezing degree days are still the lowest on record by a wide margin. Northern hemisphere snow cover is falling fast and is currently just above last year.

In contrast to last year, and thanks to lots of cyclones and very little in the way of anticyclones, there’s plenty of sub half meter sea ice in the Laptev and East Siberian Seas and hardly any in the Beaufort Sea. There’s also plenty of thin ice to be seen on both the Atlantic and Pacific peripheries.

The usual southerly arch hasn’t formed in the Nares Strait between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, and as SMOS shows the sea ice in the strait is consequently very thin. That leads one to wonder when the northern arch in the Lincoln Sea might give way.

It’s not immediately apparent from the still images above, but there’s been relatively large amounts of “old ice” exported from the Central Arctic on the Atlantic side, hence the recent increase in overall extent which is now second lowest for the date (since satellite records began). Area has been creeping up as well over recent days, but is still lowest for the date, as it has been for most of the last year. Sea ice “compactness” has decreased somewhat and given all the thin ice around the edges extent will soon start dropping once again.

All in all, the Arctic sea ice prognosis is not good. Are you watching Lamar Smith? (Pun intended!)


[Edit – April 4th]

The March PIOMAS update is out! As suspected, Arctic sea ice volume is still by far the lowest on record:


Volume on March 31st 2017 was 20.398 thousand cubic kilometers. The previous lowest volume for the date was 22.129 thousand km³ in 2011.

Here too is the PIOMAS modelled Arctic sea ice thickness map:

PIOMAS daily gridded thickness for March 31st 2017
PIOMAS daily gridded thickness for March 31st 2017


[Edit – April 12th]

The latest edition of the NSIDC’s Arctic Sea Ice News confirms that their monthly extent metric for March 2017 was the lowest in the satellite record for the month:


As well as highlighting the anomalously warm temperatures across much of the Arctic:


the NSIDC article includes this telling pressure anomaly map:


There’s also mention of a new paper:

New work by an international team led by Igor Polyakov of the University of Alaska Fairbanks provides strong evidence that Atlantic layer heat is now playing a prominent role in reducing winter ice formation in the Eurasian Basin, which is manifested as more summer ice loss. According to their analysis, the ice loss due to the influence of Atlantic layer heat is comparable in magnitude to the top down forcing by the atmosphere.

11 thoughts on “Facts About the Arctic in April 2017

  1. We’re still waiting for the March PIOMAS numbers to emerge. In the meantime the thickness of the sea ice underneath ice mass balance buoy 2017A in the Beaufort Sea has just crept over 1 meter:


    Current Buoy Data (04/03/2017):

    Pos: 72.90 N, 147.10 W
    Air Temp: -25.88 C
    Air Pres: 1021.52 mb
    Snow depth : 9 cm
    Ice thickness : 102 cm

    Since Deployment (03/09/2017)

    Snow surface accumulation: 9 cm
    Ice bottom growth : 17 cm

  2. Jim,

    On the Air Temperature graph for IMB2017A, it looks suspiciously like a diurnal pattern has become manifest after the long polar night. That means the trend is only going to go in one direction – well, at least for the next 5-6 months.

    1. Quite so Bill.

      As I’ve been discussing with Wayne on the ASIF, a few tweaks to my scripts are in order to try and minimise the effect of the hot sun on the thermistor readings shown in the graph.

  3. Total Arctic sea ice area is still flatlining:


    However the overall picture masks regional variations. The Pacific periphery has been declining:


    whereas on the Atlantic side the surface of the Kara Sea has refrozen and export through the Fram Strait has continued:


    SMOS reveals the thin ice now covering the shores of the Beaufort Sea:


  4. Jim,

    Minor detail, but in order to match the wording of your latest comment, the positions of the {Kara/Barents/Greenland sea} graph and the {Bering/Okhotsk} graph should be swapped.

  5. The effects of the high pressure over the Beaufort Sea are becoming visible in the area graph, at almost exactly the same time as last year:


    In 2016 the early open water mostly refroze over the next couple of weeks before plummeting at the end of April. The easterly winds along the Beaufort coast are forecast to continue, so in the short term at least it’s feasible a total refreeze might not occur this year either.

    Meanwhile over on the other side of the Arctic the Kara Sea is covered in sea ice once again, so that avenue of expansion is now closed:


  6. In an endeavour to clear up some apparent confusion over on SkepticalScience concerning PIOMAS trends, here’s Wipneus’ current PIOMAS trend graph:


  7. Another ice mass balance buoy has been installed in the Arctic, this time near the North Pole. Here is what buoy 2017B revealed shortly after deployment:


    According to the CRREL web site the ice thickness under the buoy is 172 cm, but it looks to be less than that on the temperature profile. As also reported by the the 2 Degrees North Pole Expedition, it shows that air temperatures have warmed up considerably near the North Pole recently.

    Regular readers will note that for 2017 our temperature profile graphs have been modified. The dotted lines at the left show maximum and minimum air temperature over the preceding 24 hour period. The thermistor 1 reading is now in column 2

  8. After a brief period of “refreeze” sea ice area in the Beaufort Sea has started to decline once again:


    There is also rather more open water in the Chukchi Sea than at this time last year:


    There’s plenty of ice less than 50 centimeters thick in all corners of the Arctic Basin:


    Here’s the ACNFS ice drift forecast for the Beaufort Sea today:


    What with one thing and another expect the sea ice area in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas to continue to fall for a few more days at least.

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