The February 2018 Fram Strait Cyclones

As already mentioned in our February Arctic overview, another storm is brewing. Here is this morning’s weather forecast for Longyearbyen, the capital of Svalbard:


Much like last month, temperatures are above zero and rain is forecast. That’s because once again the current synoptic chart from Environment Canada shows a warm wet flow from way down south over Svalbard and on into the Central Arctic:


Next here’s the current combined wave and swell height forecast for the Svalbard area:

Significant_height_of_combined_w in multi_1.glo_15mext.20180204_00037

and here’s the associated wave period forecast:

Mean_period_of_wind_waves_surfac in multi_1.glo_15mext.20180204_00037

It’s still showing 10 meter waves with a 15 second period north of Svalbard tomorrow lunchtime. Somewhat unusually for the Arctic these aren’t merely giant wind waves. Zooming in on the Fram Strait and breaking out the underlying primary swell reveals:

Significant_height_of_swell_wave in multi_1.glo_15mext.20180204_00041

Mean_period_of_swell_waves_order in multi_1.glo_15mext.20180204_00041

A long distance swell of that magnitude is going to cause some damage.


[Edit – February 5th]

The current ECMWF forecast for a split polar vortex, courtesy of Ice Shieldz on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum:

Polar View Wind Speed 10 hPa 20180204

This is suggestive of more cyclones to come, but sticking with the current one for now, here is the MSLP chart at 00:00 UTC this morning showing the cyclone’s central pressure has dropped to 952 hPa:


Here too is the current WaveWatch III forecast for 15:00 UTC today:

Significant_height_of_combined_w in multi_1.glo_15mext.20180205_00016

Mean_period_of_wind_waves_surfac in multi_1.glo_15mext.20180205_00016

The peak of the swell north of Svalbard is now slightly later than originally forecast, but it’s still enormous!

Here’s a single Sentinel 1B synthetic aperture radar image that captures the position of the ice edge north of Svalbard yesterday quite nicely:



[Edit – February 7th]

A brief overview of the effect of the recent cyclone on the sea ice in the Arctic via AMSR2:




Click the image to animate it.


[Edit – February 8th]

An Arctic wide take via Thomas Lavergne on Twitter:

plus the latest AMSR2 concentration map:



[Edit – February 9th]

An interesting insight into CryoSat-2 sea ice thickness measurements from Stefan Hendricks on Twitter:

Plus Judah Cohen on the split polar vortex:

6 thoughts on “The February 2018 Fram Strait Cyclones

  1. Methinks you will have to do another post or two., record low global sea ice extent and this stratosphere thing developing that seems likely to throw everything into the air.

      1. Neven’s primer on SSWs is, unfortunately, wrong. Judah Cohen is an actual research meteorologist who understands the physics of the stratosphere. Please refer people to Judah Cohen, not that story written by someone who doesn’t understand the basics of atmospheric science.

          1. SSWs are driven by planetary waves in the troposphere spin-coupling with the stratospheric polar vortex. Very strong layering in potential temperatures makes it impossible for a significant upward flux of mass to take place between the troposphere and the stratosphere in these events. There is a large scale upwelling in the tropics driven by persistent thunderstorms around Indonesia that slowly transports air into the stratosphere but tropospheric air is not transported upwards over the mountains of Asia into the stratosphere in the winter. However, Rossby wave energy may be rapidly transported upwards through the tropopause in the winter months. Those waves break in the upper stratosphere.

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