The Northern Sea Route in 2022

On June 17th the Northern Sea Route Administration published the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute forecast of ice conditions for June to August 2022. Here’s the summary:

“Favorable” conditions in most areas, but “average” in the eastern East Siberian Sea and south west Chukchi Sea.

Traffic along the main Northern Sea Route has already begun. The liquified natural gas carrier Nikolay Yevgenov is heading for the Bering Strait and has already sailed north of the New Siberian Islands. He is now entering the “average” ice area in the eastern ESS:

Meanwhile the recently commissioned nuclear powered icebreaker Sibir is patiently waiting in the Vilkitsky Strait:

The Northern Sea Route is evidently already “open” for ice hardened LNG tankers, but not yet for more conventional vessels. Here is the current AMSR2 sea ice concentration map:

There is already plenty of open water in the Laptev Sea, but as suggested by the AARI forecast that does not yet apply to the East Siberian Sea.

Watch this space!





The Northwest Passage in 2022

After a quiet couple of years due to the Covid-19 pandemic there are numerous cruises through the Northwest Passage planned for the summer of 2022. Some (very!) small vessels are also currently scheduled to attempt that perilous journey. First of all let’s take a look at a map of the assorted routes through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago:

Next comes news of the expeditions planned by a variety of intrepid adventurers. According to Karl Kruger’s web site :

In 2022, Karl will attempt to become the first human to paddle 1,900 miles of the Northwest Passage on a standup paddleboard.

The article at the link is undated, but suggests that Karl initially intended to set off for Pond Inlet from Tuktoyaktuk in July 2019, but postponed the trip until the summer of 2020. By then Covid restrictions were in place, so next month provides the first opportunity for him to attempt the journey once again.

Another previously postponed trip is planned for this summer by the Arctic Cowboys, paddling in kayaks:

Until Roald Amundsen made the first successful sea crossing of the Northwest Passage (1903 – 06), this labyrinth of ice took hundreds of lives as explorers attempted to break through the icy barriers, hull crushing rocks and violent arctic storms to make the journey across the top of the world.

Since then, many sailboats and ships have successfully plied the Passage, though modern sailors still fall prey to the desolate elements. A handful of kayakers have attempted the journey and completed parts of the route in multi-year attempts, going over land and over ice, but no kayaker has made the journey in one single season and without portaging over land.

This is the goal for the Arctic Cowboys.

1900 miles in 60 days, across the top of North America.

Also relying on muscle power will be the Northwest Passage Expedition. According to the expedition web site:

In 2022 an international team of adventurers and ocean rowers will attempt to row the Northwest Passage, the arctic route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans considered the Last Great First. This expedition is only possible because the regions climate is changing, and the sea ice is retreating each year gradually opening the route from July to September.

The expedition will follow the 3,700km arctic route from Baffin Island, Canada, to Point Barrow, Alaska and will draw attention to the changing environment, collecting meaningful data for climate scientists at New York University and Big Blue Ocean Cleanup.

However earlier this month it was announced on the expedition’s blog that:

We are postponing the expedition until next summer (2023). We have had reports that the ice is not favourable this year and also we have had several supply line issues and are still waiting on kit ordered before Christmas in some instances.

I don’t know where those reports of unfavourable ice conditions came from, but to start our coverage of the Northwest Passage in 2022 here are the most recent Canadian Ice Service sea ice type maps:

There is currently no “old ice” near routes 5 and 6 via Bellot Strait. For more insight into the thickness of the “thick first year ice” en route here is the Alfred Wegener Institute’s CryoSat-2/SMOS merged thickness map from mid April:

Here too is the latest AMSR2 concentration map of the CAA:

All in all I currently see no reason why the passage won’t be open for “small vessels” later this summer. Whether it will be open for long enough to row or paddle through it is another matter entirely!

Watch this space!

Facts About the Arctic in June 2022

May 2022 proved to be fairly uneventful in the Arctic. High resolution AMSR2 Arctic sea ice extent has remained towards the top of the recent pack:

However Arctic sea ice area has been declining more quickly recently, and compaction is now lowest for the date in the AMSR2 record:

The clouds over the Lena Delta have thinned, to reveal melt water beginning to spread across the fast ice in the Laptev Sea:

“False colour” image of the Lena Delta on June 2nd from the MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite

The clouds have also cleared over the North Pole, to reveal a network of leads:

“False colour” image of the North Pole on June 2nd from the MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite

The Alfred Wegener Institute have recently released the reanalysed CryoSat-2/SMOS sea ice thickness data for mid April:

We now anxiously await the PIOMAS modelled thickness data for May. Meanwhile the AWI data suggest that the thickest ice in the Central Arctic Basin is currently to be found north of Axel Heiberg Island, with the thin ice in the Laptev Sea ripe for further extent reductions:

[Edit – June 5th]

Large areas of the fast ice in the Laptev Sea are now showing evidence of surface melt:

“False colour” image of the Laptev Sea on June 5th from the MODIS instrument on the Aqua satellite

The JAXA ViSHOP web site is still down, so here are the latest “high resolution” AMSR2 numbers for June 4th:

Extent: 10.60 million square kilometers, Area: 9.77 million square kilometers

[Edit – June 9th]

The June edition of the NSIDC’s Arctic Sea Ice News summarises May 2022 as follows:

Average Arctic sea ice extent for May 2022 was 12.88 million square kilometers (4.97 million square miles). This was 410,000 square kilometers (158,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average, yet it was the highest May extent since 2013.

As was the case for April, sea ice extent was slow to decline, losing only 1.28 million square kilometers (494,000 square miles) during the month.

Within the Arctic Ocean, air temperatures at the 925 mb level (about 2,500 feet above the surface) were near average over most of the region in May, and 1 to 5 degrees Celsius (2 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1981 to 2010 average along the coast of the Kara and East Siberian Seas, the East Greenland Sea, and the Canadian Archipelago:

Areas where openings formed within the ice cover were dominated by off-shore ice motion, pushing ice poleward as well as toward Fram Strait. This offshore ice motion is largely driven by a pattern of low sea level pressure over Eurasia coupled with high pressure over the Pacific sector of the Arctic:

[Edit – June 12th]

The Polar Science Center at the University of Washington has released the PIOMAS volume data for May 2022:

Average Arctic sea ice volume in May 2022 was 22,000 km3. This value is the 11th lowest on record for May,  about  2,100 km3 above the  record set in 2017.   Monthly  ice volume was 39% below the maximum in 1979 and 24% below the mean value for 1979-2021. Average May 2022 ice volume was  1.5 standard deviations above the 1979-2021 trend line.

Ice growth anomalies for May 2022 continued to be at the upper end of the most recent decade (Fig 4) with a mean ice thickness  (above 15 cm thickness) at the middle of  recent values.

The ice thickness anomaly map for May 2022 relative to 2011-2020 continues the previous months pattern that divides the Arctic in two halves with positive anomalies in the “Western Arctic” , a strong positive anomaly in the Eastern Beaufort  but negative anomalies in “Eastern Arctic”.

The development of a positive ice thickness anomaly in the Eastern Beaufort appears to be related to anomalous sea ice drift during February that transported ice along the Canadian Coast into the Beaufort. Positive anomalies in the Greenland and Barents Seas seem to be associated with higher than normal  sea ice extent in those areas.

The Terra satellite has a nice clear view of the “Eastern Arctic” this morning, revealing widespread surface melt and continuing break up of the ice in the Laptev Sea:

“False colour” image of the Laptev and East Siberian Seas on June 12th from the MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite

[Edit – June 16th]

Bottom melt has begun on two ice mass balance buoys originally deployed in the Beaufort Sea last autumn.

IMB buoy 551610 is currently located at 78.17 N, 132.8 W:

Buoy 569620 is located at 80.96 N, 142.5 W :

Around 35 cm of snow and 1.8 m of ice to go!

[Edit – June 21st]

Here’s the mid June PIOMAS Arctic sea ice thickness map:

It shows hardly any ice thicker than 2 meters across the entire eastern half of the Arctic Ocean.

[Edit – June 25th]

The snow cover has gone and ice surface melt has begun in the northern Beaufort Sea, where IMB buoy 551610 is currently located at 78.34 N, 130.76 W:

It also looks as though there has recently been preferential solar heating and hence melting around the body of the buoy, as shown in this illustration:

[Edit – June 26th]

A low pressure area has formed over the East Siberian Sea. According to the Canadian Meteorological Centre‘s analysis the central mean surface level pressure had reached 982 hPa by midnight last night:

The CMC’s GEM forecast model suggests that it will bottom out at 974 hPa later this evening UTC and then persist for several days:

Watch this space!

Facts About the Arctic in May 2022

By way of a change we’ll start the month of May with a closer look at one of the ice mass balance buoys deployed in the Beaufort Sea last Autumn. IMB buoy 569620 was deployed at 78.5 N, 147.0 W on September 3rd 2021, and since then it has drifted to 81.0 N, 147.7 W. Here is the buoy’s record of atmospheric conditions above the ice floe it’s embedded in since then:

Here too is the buoy’s record of the temperature of the ice floe itself, as well as the thickness of the ice and the snow layer covering it:

There’s a few things to note at first glance. The ice floe continued to decrease in thickness into November. It’s thickness then started to increase, but is currently still less than 2 meters. Also the snow depth has gradually been increasing, and (apart from some data glitches!) is now ~38 cm. Finally, for the moment at least, the ice surface temperature has been slowly warming since mid February and is now ~-11 °C.

Returning to more familiar territory, high resolution AMSR2 Arctic sea ice area has taken a bit of a tumble recently:

followed less steeply by extent:

Not unexpectedly, the Pacific periphery is currently leading the decline:

[Edit – May 4th]

The Rutgers Snow Lab has updated its northern hemisphere snow cover bar chart for April 2022:

The May edition of the NSIDC’s Arctic Sea Ice News has also just been published. It summarises April 2022 as follows:

Average Arctic sea ice extent for April 2022 was 14.06 million square kilometers (5.43 million square miles). This was 630,000 square kilometers (243,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average and ranked eleventh lowest in the 44-year satellite record.

Extent declined slowly through the beginning of the month, with only 87,000 square kilometers (33,600 square miles) of ice loss between April 1 and April 10. The decline then proceeded at an average pace for this time of year through the reminder of the month.

During April, temperatures at the 925 mb level (about 2,500 feet above the surface) over the Arctic Ocean were above average. Most areas were 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) above average, but in the Beaufort Sea, April temperatures were up to 5 to 6 degrees Celsius (9 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit) above average:

This was accompanied by a strong Beaufort High pressure cell through the month:

The NSIDC’s update also refers to the Chukchi Sea polynya we’ve been keeping an eye on here:

Strong offshore winds over the northwest coast of Alaska led to openings in the ice cover, called polynyas. The first pulse of winds began on March 21. At that time, surface air temperatures were still well below freezing, and the water in the coastal polynya quickly refroze. By April 9, the offshore push of the ice ceased and the polynya iced over completely.

However, starting on April 12, a second round of offshore wind pushed the ice away from the coast, initiating another polynya. Refreezing began anew in the open water areas, but the ice growth was noticeably slower, reflecting the higher surface air temperatures by the end of the month

The NSIDC also updated their graph of sea ice age, on this occasion for the week of March 12th to 18th over the years:

Arctic sea ice news concludes with brief news of the recent death of Canadian Arctic scientist David Barber. CBC News’s obituary for David provides more details:

Family and friends are mourning the loss of the visionary Arctic researcher and University of Manitoba professor David Barber.

Barber, who was a distinguished professor, the founding director of the Centre for Earth Observation Science and  associate dean of research in the faculty of environment, earth and resource, passed away on Friday after suffering complications from cardiac arrest.

Barber, 61, is survived by his wife Lucette, three children and two grandchildren.

David Barber (left) pictured with his team on an Arctic expedition.  Photo: Julien Barber

[Edit – May 9th]

The waters of the Mackenzie River are starting to spread over the fast ice off the delta:

“False colour” image of the Beaufort Sea on May 7th from the MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite

[Edit – May 11th]

The Polar Science Center at the University of Washington has released the PIOMAS volume data for April 2022:

Average Arctic sea ice volume in April 2022 was 23,000 km3. This value is the 9th lowest on record for April, about  2,300 km3 above the record set in 2017.   Monthly  ice volume was 30% below the maximum in 1979 and 15% below the mean value for 1979-2021. Average April 2022 ice volume was 1.45 standard deviations above the 1979-2021 trend line.

The daily volume numbers reveal the PIOMAS maximum volume for 2022 to be 23,225 km3 on April 26th.

The PSC report continues:

Ice growth anomalies for April 2022 continued to be at the upper end of the most recent decade with a mean ice thickness (above 15 cm thickness) at the middle of recent values.

The ice thickness anomaly map for April 2022 relative to 2011-2020 divides the Arctic in two halves with positive anomalies in the “Western Arctic”  but negative anomalies in “Eastern Arctic”. A narrow band of negative anomalies remains along the coast of North Greenland but a positive anomaly exists north of Baffin Island.

Note that the “positive anomaly north of Baffin Island” referred to is not apparent in the CryoSat 2 ice thickness anomaly map, although there is agreement about the thicker ice in the eastern Beaufort Sea:

[Edit – May 23rd]

CryoSat-2 thickness maps stopped for the Summer in mid April. I’ve been hoping for mid May data from the PIOMAS team, but in vain so far. In its continuing absence here is a “work in progress” PIOMAS thickness map for the end of April:

The sea ice in Chaunskaya Bay and along the adjacent coast of the East Siberian Sea is starting to look distinctly damp:

“False colour” image of the East Siberian Sea on May 23rd from the MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite

That’s not too surprising when you also look at recent temperatures in Pevek, which have been approaching all time highs for the date:

P.S. The Mackenzie River has reappeared from under the clouds and is now largely liquid:

“False colour” image of the Mackenzie River and Beaufort Sea on May 23rd from the MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite

[Edit – May 27th]

Some surface melt is now visible on the fast ice at Utqiaġvik:

No doubt the recent above zero temperatures are responsible, but the forecast is for colder conditions to return:

Discussion continues on the new open thread for June 2022.

Facts About the Arctic in April 2022

The April edition of the NSIDC’s Arctic Sea Ice News summarises March 2022 as follows:

Average Arctic sea ice extent for March 2022 was 14.59 million square kilometers (5.63 million square miles), ranking ninth lowest in the satellite record…

The total decline, after a series of small ups and downs, was only 250,000 square kilometers (96,500 square miles):

Counter to what might be expected given the very slow rate of sea ice loss over the month as a whole, air temperatures at the 925 millibar level (about 2,500 feet above the surface) were above average over all of the Arctic Ocean:

March temperatures were up to 9 degrees Celsius (16 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average north of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, up to 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) above average in the East Siberian Sea, but up to 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) above average over a wide area.

The key features of the sea level pressure pattern were high pressure (an anticyclone) over the central Arctic Ocean, a trough of low pressure extending into the Barents Sea, and an unusually high pressure over Northern Europe:

While having an anticyclone over the central Arctic Ocean is quite typical for this time of year, the combination of the high pressure over northern Europe and the pressure trough to the west led to a strong pressure gradient, leading to strong winds from south through the Norwegian and Barents Seas…

This can be tied to the extreme warm event over the Arctic Ocean seen in the middle of the month, associated with strong water vapor transport and the passage of several strong cyclones.

The Polar Science Center at the University of Washington has also released the PIOMAS volume data for March 2022:

Average Arctic sea ice volume in March 2022 was 21,700 km3. This value is the 6th lowest on record for March,  about  2,200 km3 above the  record set in 2017.   Monthly  ice volume was 38% below the maximum in 1979 and 25% below the mean value for 1979-2021:

Ice growth anomalies for March 2022 continued to be at the upper end of the most recent decade with a mean ice thickness  (above 15 cm thickness) at the middle of  recent values:

The ice thickness anomaly map for March 2022 relative to 2011-2020 divides the Arctic in two halves with positive anomalies in the “Western Arctic”  but negative anomalies in “Eastern Arctic”. A narrow band of negative anomalies remains along the coast of   North of Greenland but positive anomaly exists north of Baffin Island.

CryoSat 2 ice thickness shows an  similar pattern of sea ice thickness anomalies though the areas North of Greenland and Baffin Bay show substantial differences:

[Edit – April 10th]

Here are the latest graphs of our favourite “high resolution” AMSR2 metrics, which combine recent data from the Alfred Wegener Institute with historical data from the University of Hamburg:


As you can see, there have indeed been a few ups and downs! Click the image below to see a 10 Mb animation of ice motion over the last few weeks:

The obvious point to note at the moment is that there are currently long flaw leads on both the Siberian and Canadian sides of the Arctic Ocean. The animation also reveals episodes of open water in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, as well as north of Franz Josef Land and Svalbard.

The ice in those areas is still very thin on the latest AWI CryoSat-2/SMOS sea ice thickness map:

[Edit – April 11th]

Here too is the latest AWI CryoSat-2/SMOS volume graph:

The reanalysed data is now showing something of a surge towards the end of February.

[Edit – April 23rd]

Here’s the last “near real time” AWI CryoSat-2/SMOS Arctic sea ice thickness map for Spring 2022:

The significantly thinner areas in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are even more pronounced than previously. Here also is the associated CS2/SMOS volume graph:

The 2022 maximum volume based on NRT data is 19719 km³ on April 5th. Expect that to be revised upwards when the reanalysed data is ultimately published.

Going back to 2 dimensions, the assorted “ups and downs” now seem to have resolved into the melting season proper:

The peripheral sea have been responsible for most of the recent decline:

However as mentioned above, the Chukchi Sea has been experiencing some ups and downs of its own. Perhaps the sun is now high enough in the sky for the most recent “down” to stick around for the summer?

“True colour” image of the Chukchi Sea on April 21st from the MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite

[Edit – April 24th]

Over the last couple of days some open water has appeared in the Beaufort Sea off the Mackenzie Delta:

“True colour” image of the Beaufort Sea on April 23rd from the MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite

[Edit – April 25th]

Especially for Taylor, here’s the GFS Arctic snow depth forecast for 10 days into the future:

See in particular the Beaufort and Chukchi areas.

Please also see the new open thread for May 2022

Exercise Cold Response 2022

In a press release earlier today the Royal Navy announced that:

The UK’s largest warship has left Portsmouth to lead a NATO task force to the Arctic for the biggest exercises in Norway for 30 years.

Aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales deploys in her role as NATO’s command ship to Exercise Cold Response, the large-scale Norwegian-led exercises which will see 35,000 troops from 28 nations operate together in the harshest environment. 

Prince of Wales is responsible for leading NATO’s Maritime High Readiness Force – an international task group formed to deal with major global events – and deploys for the first time in that role to Cold Response.

Aboard the carrier are the most senior sea-going staff in the Royal Navy – Commander UK Strike Force, headed by Rear Admiral Mike Utley, who will lead a sizeable task force as part of a galvanized NATO effort for peace and stability in Europe. 

Rear Admiral Utley said: “NATO is the cornerstone of the UK defence and our commitment to the alliance is absolute. 

“It is a privilege to be the UK Maritime Component Commander as we participate in this Norwegian-led exercise.”

Prince of Wales will be at the head of a powerful maritime task force, which, alongside aircraft and land forces – including Royal Marines Commandos – will show how a unified multilateral force would defend Norway and Europe’s northern flank from a modern adversary.

Around the aircraft carrier will be a protective ring of steel made up of warships, aircraft, a nuclear-powered attack submarine and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary replenishment vessel. Together they will defend Prince of Wales against threats above, below and on the waves throughout her high north deployment. 

It will be the first time one of the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers has operated in the Arctic and it is a challenge the ship’s company is relishing.

An English language overview of Exercise Cold Response is available for download from the Norwegian Armed Forces web site:

As of 4 March 2022, a total of 27 nations and some 30,000 soldiers are signed up for Cold Response. These numbers are likely to change as we get closer to the exercise.

The 30,000 participants consist of:
• 14,000 land forces
• 8,000 naval forces
• 8,000 air forces and staff

About 220 aircraft and more than 50 vessels will take part in the exercise.

In addition to military units from NATO, partner nations and the Norwegian Armed Forces, a number of Norwegian civilian agencies and organisations will also take part. In addition to this, 39 Norwegian municipalities are involved in the exercise.

Facts About the Arctic in March 2022

For detailed analysis of Arctic sea ice extent over the next few weeks please see the 2022 maximum extent thread. However to get the new open thread going here is the current JAXA/ViSHOP extent graph:

It’s looking more and more as though the real maximum for 2022 occurred close the false peak on February 23rd.

Arctic sea ice volume will keep increasing for a while longer. Here is the current AWI CryoSat-2/SMOS volume graph:

The recent “flat line” in extent is in part due to recent events on the Pacific periphery of the Arctic. Take a look at this animation of AMSR2 sea ice concentration:

The gap varies depending on how the wind blows, but there is still evidence of open water (or very thin ice) along the shore of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Here’s the Mackenzie Delta and the adjacent Beaufort Sea on March 5th:

Continue reading Facts About the Arctic in March 2022

The 2022 Maximum Arctic Sea Ice Extent

Here’s the latest graph of Arctic sea ice extent from JAXA/ViSHOP, which looks a bit unusual to say the least:


It certainly caught my eye! Could that sudden peak on February 23rd be the maximum extent for the year? To be frank it looks more like an artifact in the underlying gridded AMSR2 concentration data, but it’s not wholly beyond the bounds of possibility. The Pacific side of the Arctic is anomalously warm at the moment:

and parts of the Bering Sea are above freezing point:

For the moment then the (extremely!) provisional JAXA Arctic sea ice maximum extent for 2022 is 14.39 million km².

By way of an AMSR2 second opinion let’s also take a look at our favourite “high resolution” AMSR2 metrics, which combine recent data from the Alfred Wegener Institute with historical data from the University of Hamburg:

The extent peak on the 23rd is of much smaller magnitude, and it’s almost non existent on the area graph.

Curiouser and curiouser.

[Edit – March 1st]

The JAXA maximum on February 23rd is definitely an artifact of dodgy AMSR2 data. Take a look at the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland in particular:

The University of Hamburg version also shows an anomaly in the Barents Sea:

However the 5 day averaged NSIDC extent graph now shows a significant peak on February 25th:

Is anybody willing to put money on 14.875 million km² just yet?

[Edit – March 7th]

Here are the latest “high resolution” AMSR2 graphs:

The February 23rd maximum holds, for the moment at least.

[Edit – March 11th]

Here’s the latest JAXA Arctic sea ice extent graph:

A late surge is now looking exceedingly unlikely. However given that the maximum seems to have occurred during the brief period of dodgy data around February 23rd, what magnitude and date should be assigned to the 2022 maximum?

Whilst I ponder that thorny problem…

[Edit – March 12th]

Now I’ve really gone and done it! Started the “2022 melting season” thread on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum that is:

https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,3749

Lots of heat heading in the direction of the North Pole sealed the deal:

[Edit – March 24th]

According to the latest edition of the NSIDC’s Arctic Sea Ice News:

Arctic sea ice has likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.88 million square kilometers (5.75 million square miles) on February 25. The 2022 maximum is the tenth lowest in the 44-year satellite record. On the same day, on the other pole, Antarctic sea ice reached a record minimum extent, at 1.92 million square kilometers (741,000 square miles).

The date of the maximum this year, February 25, was fifteen days earlier than the 1981 to 2010 average date of March 12. Only two years had an earlier maximum, 1987 and 1996, both on February 24. This year is the second earliest date on the satellite record, tying with 2015, which also reached its maximum extent on February 25.

Watch this space!

Facts About the Arctic in February 2022

Following the “Great Arctic Winter Cyclone” towards the end of January, here are the latest high resolution AMSR2 area and extent graphs:

The sudden reduction in sea ice area due to the cyclone is very apparent, as is the subsequent refreeze of the affected area. Here’s an animation of AMSR2 concentration revealing more detail:

Here too is the latest AWI CryoSat-2/SMOS Arctic sea ice volume graph:

It doesn’t reveal a similar “blip” towards the end of January, suggesting that reduction in area was due to compaction rather than melt. The current AWI thickness map shows the freshly formed ice north east of Svalbard is still very thin:

The latest thickness anomaly map from the Finnish Meteorological Institute shows that the ice which was exported from the Central Arctic via the Fram Strait is nevertheless still anomalously thin, although there is now an area of thicker ice north of Greenland:

Continue reading Facts About the Arctic in February 2022

Facts About the Arctic in January 2022

2021 has been and gone, so first of all may I wish all our readers a very Happy New Year.

Sadly it’s not been a happy start to 2022 for the inhabitants of Boulder, Colorado, home of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. According to the Denver Post:

The Marshall fire destroyed an estimated 991 homes in Boulder County, damaged 127 more and may have killed three people, Sheriff Joe Pelle said Saturday afternoon.

Pelle added that the cause of the fire — the most damaging in Colorado history — remains under investigation, and confirmed that sheriff’s officials have served a search warrant on at least one property based on a tip.

Currently, two people are missing in Superior and another is missing in the Marshall area, Pelle said. All three are feared dead as each of their homes was lost to the fire, the sheriff said…

So far, officials say Thursday’s wildfire — exacerbated by 100-mph winds — burned more than 6,000 acres across Boulder County.

The fire destroyed 553 homes in Louisville, damaging 45, Pelle said Saturday. It also destroyed 332 homes in Superior, damaging 60 in that town, and destroyed 106 homes in unincorporated Boulder County, damaging 22…

Officials first thought downed power lines sparked the fire, but have been unable to confirm its origin. The abnormally dry conditions led to what is now the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history.

Moving north to examine snow and ice data from the Arctic, let’s start 2022 in traditional fashion with a look at high resolution AMSR2 area and extent:

Both metrics are now near the upper boundary of the last 10 years’ range. The AMSR2 instrument wasn’t launched into orbit until summer 2012, but according to both JAXA and NSIDC data extent on January 1st 2022 is almost identical to the same date in 2012. Regular readers will recall that year went on to produce the lowest annual minimum extent in the satellite era despite recording the highest annual maximum in the decade of the 2010s:

Note that sea ice volume tells a rather different story. Here’s the latest AWI CryoSat-2/SMOS volume graph:

The current near real time data is likely to be revised upwards slightly when the final reanalysis is complete, but even so volume seems likely to remain in the lower half of the recent range at the end of 2021.

Here too is the AWI Arctic sea ice thickness map:

together with the thickness anomaly map from the Finnish Meteorological Institute:

Once again the ice in the so called “last ice area” north of Greenland and Ellesmere Island is thinner than usual, as the ice in the Fram Strait and East Greenland Sea.

[Edit – January 11th]

As has been pointed out below, the Polar Science Center has now released the PIOMAS volume data for December 2021:

Average Arctic sea ice volume in December 2021 was 13,300 km3. This value is the 9th lowest on record for December,  about  2100 km3 above the  record set in 2016.   Monthly  ice volume was 51% below the maximum in 1979 and 37% below the mean value for 1979-2020. Average December 2021 ice volume was  1.2  standard deviations above the 1979-2020 trend line.

November and December of 2021 saw relative rapid ice growth  for recent years, bringing the mean ice thickness  (above 15 cm thickness) towards the thicker end of  the recent values.

The ice thickness anomaly map for December 2021 relative to 2011-2020 continues to show anomalies divided into positive and a negative halves with areas of positive anomalies increasing since the two prior months and stretching from the Beaufort, over the pole and into the Barents.  Negative anomalies stretching from Fram Strait,  North of Greenland and along the Canadian Archipelago. Areas North of Greenland again feature low ice thickness as in prior years.

Note that as revealed by this animation from NASA Worldview the sea ice in the Lincoln Sea is currently still breaking up and being exported from the Central Arctic via the Nares Strait:

[Edit – January 25th]

The Atlantic side of the Arctic Ocean has been taking a bit of a battering from what I shall henceforth refer to as the Great Arctic Winter Cyclone of 2022, or GAWC 2022 for short. Unless there’s an even deeper one later in the year of course!

According to the Canadian Meteorological Centre the storm achieved a minimum Mean Sea Level Pressure of 937 hPa at 12 noon UTC yesterday:

Here are the visible effects of the storm on the sea ice in the area so far, now updated to January 25th:

Watch this space!