As in previous years there is already a thread devoted to this year’s minimum extent. By way of a summary here are the end of August numbers for our favourite “high resolution” AMSR2 area and extent metrics:
Extent is currently near the top of the range of the last 10 years.
We have now reached the stage of the “melting season” when “refreezing” has started in the Central Arctic but melting at the periphery is outpacing it. However the Canadian Ice Service stage of development charts now show the arrival of new ice in the high latitudes of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago:
September has arrived and it’s time to start speculating about when and at what level this summer’s minimum Arctic sea ice extent will occur. Here’s a helpful summary of previous years’ JAXA AMSR2/AMSR-E extent minima courtesy of Zack Labe:
Here too is JAXA’s current graph of extent, including a selection of previous years:
JAXA extent on August 31st was 4.96 million km2, marginally below last year’s value of 4.99 million km2 on the same date.
Extremely belatedly I’ve just discovered that many weeks ago Sébastien Roubinet set out on another expedition to cross the Arctic Ocean in an ice skating catamaran, now christened Babouch-ty. Seb has already led several similar expeditions in the high Arctic, and on this occasion he is accompanied by Eric André and Jimmy Hery. They set sail from Sachs Harbour on Banks Island at the end of June, and have seen many sights since then! Here are a few of them:
Here too is a more recent image of Babouch-ty and Ellesmere Island:
The Nagalaqa tracking map shows that Babouch-ty looks set to round Cape Columbia, the northernmost point on Ellesmere Island, round about now:
The original aim of the expedition was to reach Svalbard via Cap Morris Jesup, but given the length of time it has taken the team to get this far they have sensibly decided to take an early exit from the Central Arctic via the Nares Strait:
[Edit – September 26th]
Seb has decided to terminate the Nagalaqa Expedition in the Nares Strait, north of the Kane Basin:
Winds of more than 30 knots are forecast. The weather window didn’t really open. Luckily we’re not on the water, with our wobbly little boat, it would have been catastrophic… Here and now, the winds, the cold, the snow, the darkness remind us that winter is back. The Arctic requires patience, perseverance, but also a large dose of humility. We are waiting for better weather conditions so that a helicopter can take off and pick us up. In a few days, we will leave Babouch-ty, dismasted, coiled in a fold of ground and moored to bags of stones… This expedition ends here for this year.
Having yet to cross metaphorical swords with many of the more foul mouthed “skeptics” of my acquaintance this missive comes to you later than usual this year. However I have just come across one Alan Poirier for the first time. Apparently Alan’s source of Arctic expertise is Watts Up With That!
This is how the entirety of our conversation on Twitter went earlier this evening (UTC):
After a long hiatus courtesy of the demise of the annual Barneo ice camp and the Covid-19 pandemic we are pleased to be able to report that an ice mass balance buoy has once again been installed on a floe in the vicinity of the North Pole. Here’s the evidence:
The ship in the background is not a traditional research icebreaker. It is Ponant Cruises’ Le Commandant Charcot, one of a number of new ice hardened cruise ships voyaging across the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas. Le Commandant Charcot reached 90N on July 13th:
From her home port in Bremerhaven, the Polarstern will set course for Fram Strait and the marginal ice zone north of Svalbard, where warm, nutrient-rich Atlantic Water flows into the Arctic Ocean.
Closely monitoring energy and material flows in the marginal ice zone from the ship and from on ice floes is the goal of the team led by Prof Torsten Kanzow, expedition leader and a physical oceanographer at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). “We will make transects from the open water into the dense sea ice and back. Along the way, we will gather a variety of physical, chemical and biological measurements in the marginal ice zone, which is especially productive and therefore especially interesting,” explains Kanzow.
“The team will also venture onto the ice to take a closer look at the thickness and characteristics of the sea ice and measure ocean currents and eddies away from the ship. We’ll also deploy so-called gliders in the ocean, buoys on the ice and moorings on the seafloor, all of which will record valuable data for the next several years. Lastly, we’ll extend our research radius with helicopter flights, during which we’ll observe, for instance, the melt ponds on the ice.”
Following the work in the MIZ north of Svalbard Polarstern will be heading for Northeast Greenland:
The two glaciers there (79 N Glacier and Zachariae Isstrom) are both characterised by ocean-driven ice loss and accelerated ice flows, making them contributors to sea-level rise. “We plan to install moorings in order to gauge the sensitivity of ocean-driven glacier melting to changing environmental conditions,” says Kanzow, who’s been pursuing research in the region since 2016. Accompanying geodetic-glaciological studies will be conducted on Greenland. On the one hand, they will assess how the solid ground is rising on extremely small scales, because it is still rebounding from the past weight of ice masses that melted after the last glacial maximum. On the other, they will explore temporal variations in supraglacial lakes; their drainage out to sea can have considerable effects on glacier flow speeds and glacier melting.
The AWI team have installed three seasonal ice mass balance buoys in the MIZ, without the usual thermistor string but with a new conductivity, temperature, depth (CTD) sensor fitted to measure salinity instead. Less colourful than usual sea ice thickness graphs can be viewed on the 2022 ice mass balance buoy page. Here’s one example:
[Edit – July 25th]
The image above updates on a daily basis, but today’s version is worth preserving for posterity:
There is currently a large area of low concentration sea ice around the North Pole, and Polarstern has left its station in the marginal ice zone and is currently heading north of Greenland rather than in the direction of the 79N/ZI glaciers.
Polarstern has been heading even further north to the Aurora Vent field (about 130 nautical miles northwest). As part of an extensive lithospheric study, ocean bottom seismometers will be deployed at depths of more than 4000 meters to record seismological activity as well as the physical properties of the hydrothermal plume.
Polarstern is now heading south again, where a team from the Technical University of Dresden will be deploying a modified surfboard on supra-glacial lakes! Here’s a test run in a melt pond:
[Edit – July 29th]
I discovered something rather interesting whilst browsing the Marine Traffic ship tracking web site this morning:
It appears as if the AWI have recently installed two buoys that support AIS position reporting, as indeed does Polarstern itself:
[Edit – August 6th]
Polarstern is now approaching the 79 N and Zachariae Isstrom glaciers:
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. Marine Traffic reveals that 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:
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:
plus another map which includes a few more place names:
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.
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