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:

Facts About the Arctic in February 2018

Whilst the official PIOMAS volume figures for January have yet to be released Wipneus has worked his usual magic on the gridded thickness numbers to reveal:


not to mention the calculated volume:


and the volume anomaly:


As Wipneus puts it:

Estimated from the thickness data, the latest value is from 31st of January: 17.57 [1000 km3], which is the second lowest value for that day, 2017 is lowest by a rather large margin at 16.16 [1000 km3].

Here are the “measured” thickness maps from SMOS:


and CryoSat-2:


Here are the end of January Arctic wide high resolution AMSR2 graphs based on University of Hamburg data:



In addition, since it’s that time of year, here too is Wipneus’ NSIDC global sea ice extent:


The minimum thus far is very slightly above last year’s value, but perhaps like last year there will be a “double dip”?

Getting back to the Arctic, here is the DMI >80N temperature plot for January:


together with the associated freezing degree days graph:


Here’s a video showing the effect of the mid January cyclones on the sea ice in the Fram Strait and north of Svalbard:

Finally, for the moment at least, here is the current Fram Strait surf forecast for 12:00 UTC on February 5th:

Significant_height_of_combined_w in multi_1.glo_30mext.20180203_00021

Mean_period_of_wind_waves_surfac in multi_1.glo_30mext.20180203_00021

Those maps shows 10 meter high, 15 second period waves heading straight for the ice edge north of Svalbard.


[Edit – February 7th]

The latest edition of Arctic Sea Ice News has been published. As the NSIDC put it:

January of 2018 began and ended with satellite-era record lows in Arctic sea ice extent, resulting in a new record low for the month. Combined with low ice extent in the Antarctic, global sea ice extent is also at a record low.


Air temperatures at the 925 hPa level (about 2,500 feet above sea level) remained unusually high over the Arctic Ocean. Nearly all of the region was at least 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) or more above average. The largest departures from average of more than 9 degrees Celsius (16 degrees Fahrenheit) were over the Kara and Barents Seas, centered near Svalbard. On the Pacific side, air temperatures were about 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) above average. By contrast, 925 hPa temperatures over Siberia were up to 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) below average. The warmth over the Arctic Ocean appears to result partly from a pattern of atmospheric circulation bringing in southerly air, and partly from the release of heat into the atmosphere from open water areas.



[Edit – February 10th]

The University of Hamburg’s high resolution AMSR2 derived area is bouncing back after the recent cyclone, but extent is currently still declining:



The recent drop in Arctic sea ice extent has pushed the NSIDC global extent to a new all time (satellite era!) low:


The January 2018 Fram Strait Cyclones

We’ve covered similar events in the recent past, but this one looks like it will take the proverbial biscuit.

Here’s the 6 hour wave forecast for the Fram Strait from 12:00 UTC this afternoon:

Significant_height_of_combined_w in multi_1.glo_30mext-20180113-12z+6

Mean_period_of_wind_waves_surfac in multi_1.glo_30mext-20180113-12z+6

Look at the scales carefully then compare the wave height and period with previous similar events. Here’s the cause of those giant waves, two powerful cyclones off Greenland pumping heat and moisture northwards from a long way south:


Also bear in mind the current sea ice area around Svalbard:


and the current weather forecast for the capital Longyearbyen:


Note in particular the anomalously high temperatures and the severe weather warnings for both rain and avalanches. In the middle of January.

Finally, for the moment at least, here’s a Sentinel 1B image of the sea ice in the Fram Strait earlier this morning:



[Edit – January 14th]

The temperature in Longyearbyen is forecast to drop below freezing point early on Tuesday and then remain there, which I guess counts as good news?


However the southernmost of the two cyclones off Greenland is now down to a central MSLP of 942 hPa:



[Edit – January 15th]

The cyclone now centred near Iceland looks as though it bottomed out at a MLSP of 939 hPa earlier today:


Watch this space!

The 2017/18 Festive Season in the Arctic

Christmas is coming, and Santa’s secret summer swimming pool has frozen over once again. However the same can’t be said for the Chukchi Sea! More on that in due course, but first let’s take a look at the PIOMAS volume graph at the end of November, courtesy of the wondrous Wipneus on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum:


2017 is currently third lowest, behind 2012 and 2016. Next let’s take a look at Wipneus’ PIOMAS Arctic sea ice thickness map:


followed by the University of Bremen’s SMOS Arctic sea ice thickness map:


Note the large area of pale blue open ocean still visible in the Chukchi Sea towards the top left of both maps.

For another perspective on Arctic sea ice thickness here’s the latest Cryosat-2 map, which currently is based on the month up to November 24th:


Finally, for the moment at least, here’s our very own Arctic Freezing Degree Days graph based on the DMI’s >80N data:


2017 is currently occupying the wide open space between the astonishingly low numbers last year and all previous years in DMI’s record. Here’s their graph for 2017 so far:



[Edit – December 10th]

Current Arctic sea ice area and extent derived from the University of Hamburg’s high resolution AMSR2 data:



Plus the latest update on the Chukchi Sea situation:



[Edit – December 20th]

Wipneus has released his mid month PIOMAS update for December:



The Chukchi Sea is now mostly covered in sea ice, as is the Kara Sea. Volume is still 3rd lowest behind 2016 and 2012.

Whilst on the subject of sea ice thickness a related subject is sea ice age. Here’s a new paper on that topic:

A new tracking algorithm for sea ice age distribution estimation

Note that these assorted sea ice age maps are all for January 1st 2016!


Watch this space!

Pine Island Glacier Calves Again

An image captured earlier this morning by the Sentinel 1A satellite’s synthetic aperture radar reveals that another huge chunk of the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica has broken loose:


P.S. Here’s an animation of the calving courtesy of Wipneus:


Via Stef Lhermitte on Twitter:


[Edit – September 24th]

The latest image from Sentinel 1A:


Click it for a much closer look.


[Edit – October 16th]

Another animation from Wipneus, showing the recently calved section of the Pine Island Glacier coming apart at the seams:



[Edit – December 11th]

Another revealing image from Wipneus via the Arctic Sea Ice Forum:


New cracks are opening on the Pine Island Ice Shelf.


[Edit – December 22nd]

Via Susan Anderson at the Arctic Sea Ice Forum:

Pine Island Iceberg Under the Midnight Sun
Pine Island Iceberg Under the Midnight Sun

In September 2017, a new iceberg calved from Pine Island Glacier—one of the main outlets where the West Antarctic Ice Sheet flows into the ocean. Just weeks later, the berg named B-44 shattered into more than 20 fragments.

On December 15, 2017, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this natural-color image of the broken berg. An area of relatively warm water, known as a polyna, has kept the water ice free between the iceberg chunks and the glacier front. NASA glaciologist Chris Shuman thinks the polynya’s warm water could have caused the rapid breakup of B-44.

The image was acquired near midnight local time. Based on parameters including the azimuth of the Sun and its elevation above the horizon, as well as the length of the shadows, Shuman has estimated that the iceberg rises about 49 meters above the water line. That would put the total thickness of the berg—above and below the water surface—at about 315 meters.


[Edit – December 23rd]

Another graphic Landsat PIG GIF from Wipneus on the ASIF:


The 2017 Arctic Sea Ice Metric Minima

September has arrived once again, the month in which the assorted Arctic area and extent metrics (almost) always reach their respective annual minima. Now we can start to speculate about what the assorted minima will be, and on what date.

First of all let’s take a look at “Snow White’s” favourite high resolution AMSR2 metrics derived by “Wipneus” from University of Hamburg AMSR2 concentration data:



As you can see, today’s values are both higher than yesterday’s. Hence we already have potential minima to consider! In this case:

UH AMSR2 Area – 3.65 million km² on September 1st
UH AMSR2 Extent – 4.30 million km² on September 1st

Personally I don’t think those numbers will last long, and here’s one reason why. The “surf forecast” for the far North Atlantic for midday on September 6th:

Significant_height_of_combined_w in multi_1.glo_30mext.20170903_00029

Mean_period_of_swell_waves_order in multi_1.glo_30mext.20170903_00029

Some significant swells are currently forecast to batter the ice edge on the Atlantic side of the Arctic over the next few days.


[Edit – September 3rd PM]

Shock news! Tony Heller has made a prediction about this year’s minimum!! Unlike last year, this year the NSIDC 5 day average extent seems to be his Arctic metric of choice:


Tony tells his faithful flock:

The Arctic sea ice minimum this year is very likely going to be be larger than 2016, 2015, 2012, 2011 and 2007.

It is also likely that the minimum extent will be higher than 2010 and 2008.

Instead of reporting the huge gain in ice and massive failure of their forecasts, climate alarmists will report that extent was “8th lowest on record.”

All those years are on the graph above. We shall see.


[Edit – September 15th]

Our normal Arctic sea ice extent 2017 minimum service will be restored as soon as possible. Meanwhile here is the test card:

That comes to you via the Daily Express of all places!

On the way the cruise’s resident naturalist and Smithsonian lecturer, Michael Scott, risked the wrath of Trump supporters by pointing to some of the changes Greenland is undergoing.

A Nasa map based on data between 2004 and 2014 revealed that the ice is melting across most of Greenland – an area nine times the size of the UK.

Pulling together several papers, Michael said Greenland’s summer melt season now lasts 70 days longer than in the early 1970s.

This melting is unfreezing the fringes of the permafrost, which may explain why Nasa satellites are picking up fires raging where the ice has retreated.


[Edit – September 16th]

It is of course still to early to be 100% certain about this. However:


It certainly looks as though the bottom is in for the University of Hamburg AMSR2 extent: 4.25 million km² on September 11th.

It’s much the same story for JAXA extent:


4.47 million km² on September 9th and 10th.


[Edit – September 19th]

The NSIDC have followed in Snow White’s glass slippered footsteps and tentatively called the minimum:

On September 13, Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its seasonal minimum extent of 4.64 million square kilometers (1.79 million square miles), the eighth lowest in the 38-year satellite record. The overall rate of ice loss this summer was slowed by a persistent pattern of low sea level pressure focused over the central Arctic Ocean.

Please note that this is a preliminary announcement. Changing winds or late-season melt could still reduce the Arctic ice extent, as happened in 2005 and 2010. NSIDC scientists will release a full analysis of the Arctic melt season, and discuss the Antarctic winter sea ice growth, in early October.

The ever industrious Wipneus has also called the PIOMAS minimum volume for 2017:

Minimum volume was reached at 11th September: 4.542 103km3, which is fourth lowest after 2012, 2011 and 2016 (resp 3.673, 4.302, 4.402) and just below 2010 (4.582).



[Edit – September 23rd]

Here’s the 2017 edition of our annual NSIDC daily max/min extent graph:


The maximum extent was the lowest in the satellite record, and the minimum was just fractionally above the trend line. For those that concern themselves with “statistical significance”, the PIOMAS minimum volume was a “statistical tie” for second place:


Watch this space!

Reductio Ad Absurdum

A somewhat surreal modern Arctic art installation:







Crystal Serenity Sails the Northwest Passage in 2017

After a voyage through the Northwest Passage untroubled by sea ice in 2016, the cruise liner Crystal Serenity has set sail for the Bering Strait and beyond once again. The SailWX tracking map shows her passing the Aleutian Islands:


and although there is of course no sea ice to be seen yet her forward facing webcam reveals Dutch Harbor as her next port of call:


Much like last year, it looks as though the British icebreaker Ernest Shackleton is on its way to assist her:


Having an icebreaker in attendance might well prove to be essential this year, since, according to the Canadian Ice Service, Larsen Sound is currently still full of sea ice:



[Edit – August 21th]

Heading westwards to meet Crystal Serenity, this is what met the RRS Ernest Shackleton in Franklin Strait:


Meanwhile Crystal Serenity is about to pass through the (ice free!) Bering Strait:



[Edit – August 29th]

Crystal Serenity is now heading through Queen Maud Gulf:


but there is as yet no sign of any sea ice:



However some should come into view later today. Here are the latest Canadian Ice Service sea ice charts of the area:




[Edit – August 29th 11:30]

Crystal Serenity has spotted some sea ice!



[Edit – August 29th 17:30]

Crystal Serenity and Ernest Shackleton are well in amongst the ice now, as are the former’s passengers:



[Edit – August 30th]

Crystal Serenity is now entering the Franklin Strait in the wake of TWO icebreakers:




Watch this space!

The Northern Sea Route in 2017

Depending on whether you’re reading an “alarmist” or a “skeptical” web site you may have been told either that the Northern Sea Route is already “open” or that the “icebreaker stuck in the sea ice off Pevek” escaped very late this summer. Here at Great White Con we like to think of ourselves as “realists”, so what are the actual facts of the matter.

Our customary way of looking at such things is to use the Canadian Ice Service’s definition of “open” for the Northwest Passage, which seems to be 3/10 or less concentration along the entire route. That would allow an intrepid little yacht like Northabout through without too much trouble, but that point has not quite been reached yet this year. The NSR looks to be eminently “open” already if you only look at an AMSR2 concentration map:


However according to the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI for short) there is still not a suitably simple way through Vilkitsky Strait. Here’s their latest ice chart of the area:


Convoys led by nuclear powered icebreakers have already passed through the Vilkitsky Strait this summer. See for example this tracking map of Yamal from a few days ago:


Also an unaccompanied liquid natural gas carrier has made it through the Vilkitsky Strait already this year. According to a Total press release:

After loading its cargo at the Snøhvit LNG export terminal in Norway, in which Total has an 18.4% interest, the Christophe de Margerie is taking the Northern Sea Route to Boryeong in South Korea, where it will deliver a cargo for Total Gas & Power. It’s the first unescorted merchant LNG vessel ever to take this route, which makes it possible to reach Asia via the Bering Strait in 15 days versus 30 days via the Suez Canal.

This technological feat was made possible through the participation of Total teams to the design of these next-generation LNG carriers. Compilations of technology, they efficiently transport large quantities of LNG year-round, without requiring escort icebreakers during the period from July to November. The Christophe de Margerie is the first of a total of 15 planned LNG carriers that will be gradually deployed.

As you can see, whilst it travels forwards in open water the Christophe de Margerie goes into reverse when breaking ice! Little yachts and other unaccompanied vessels lacking an ice class certificate will have to wait just a little longer however, unless of course they are inclined to be “intrepid”.


[Edit – August 19th]

As Cesium points out below, there is now a <= 3/10 concentration channel through the Vilkitsky Strait on the AARI maps.



Here’s a couple of Sentinel 1A tiles from this morning stitched together:


We can now safely declare the Northern Sea Route “open”, even for less intrepid little yachts.

Facts About the Arctic in August 2017

What seems likely to be the most interesting period of the 2017 Arctic sea ice melting season is upon us! The PIOMAS gridded data hasn’t been released yet, but the overall volume numbers reveal that 2017 has now relinquished its “lowest ever” position to 2012. Here’s Wipneus’ graph of the volume data:


plus his anomaly plot:


Our favourite high resolution AMSR2 area and extent graphs now also allow comparison with 2012. Here’s how they look at the moment:



As you can see, round about now is when 2012 Arctic sea ice extent started to noticeably race ahead of the rest of the pack. Will 2017 follow suit? Are there any Arctic cyclones on the horizon for example? Well, the one forecast for August 4th hasn’t materialised. Here’s this morning’s Environment Canada synopsis:


However both ECMWF and GFS agree that a sub 985 hPa storm should have arrived by Sunday morning. Here’s the ECMWF version from MeteoCiel:


There’s stronger storms in the forecast further out, but once again we’ll believe them if and when we see them!

We’re keeping a close eye on the Northwest Passage once again this year. Most of the southern route is open already, but as we predicted the old ice in Larsen Sound has a lot of melting still to do. Here’s how it looked from the icebreaker Nordica a few days ago:

On top of that the old ice around O-Buoy 14 is currently rushing south down the McClintock Channel to replenish it. Here’s how that looks at the moment:


Meanwhile the melt along the Northern Sea Route is well ahead of last year. Here’s the University of Hamburg AMSR2 concentration map of the area:


There’s also now a lot of open water on the Pacific side of the Arctic, and Sunday’s cyclone is forecast to create a large area of 2 meter plus waves heading in the direction of the ice edge:

Significant_height_of_combined_w in multi_1.glo_30mext.20170804_00024

I expect that to have a noticeable effect on the already fragile sea ice by early next week, assuming the storm arrives as forecast! There is an ice mass balance buoy handily placed out on the ice in the path of the storm. Buoy 2017A is currently located near 77 N, 147 W, and its assorted sensors suggest the ice underneath it is now less than 20 cm thick:



Here’s how the area around the buoy looked a couple of weeks ago:

Image of 2017A from WARM 6 on July 18th 2017. NSF project: NSF OPP #1603548

The $64,000 question now is will the 2017 Arctic sea ice metrics stay in amongst the recent pack, or race after 2012 instead?


[Edit – August 6th]

This morning’s synopsis from Environment Canada suggests the cyclone has bottomed out at a MSLP of 982 hPa:


Here’s how the cyclone looked from space yesterday:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the sea ice north of the Beaufort Sea on August 5th 2017, derived from the VIIRS sensor on the Suomi satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the sea ice north of the Beaufort Sea on August 5th 2017, derived from the VIIRS sensor on the Suomi satellite

I think that I can convince myself that the salinity profile from ice tethered profiler 97, currently located at 73° N, 134° W, reveals mixing from depth in the wake of the storm:


The synthetic aperture radar on the Sentinel 1B satellite can certainly see through the clouds, and reveals open water in the Central Arctic north of the Beaufort Sea yesterday evening (UTC):

Sentinel 1B image of Arctic sea ice at 79N, 160W on August 5th 2017
Sentinel 1B image of Arctic sea ice at 79° N, 160° W on August 5th 2017


[Edit – August 7th]

Here is Wipneus’ latest AMSR2 concentration delta map:


The effects of this weekend’s storm are readily apparent! Just in case you’re wondering Wipneus reports:

Area: -172.0 (+324k vs 2016, +138k vs 2015, -669k vs 2014, -523k vs 2013, +493k vs 2012)



[Edit – August 8th]

The next pulse of swell is currently forecast to be somewhat higher and longer period than the last one. This one is also taking aim at the Beaufort Sea MIZ:

Significant_height_of_combined_w in multi_1.glo_30mext.20170808-12Z_00045

Mean_period_of_wind_waves_surfac in multi_1.glo_30mext.20170808-12Z_00045


[Edit – August 9th]

According to Environment Canada the latest cyclone is already down to 980 hPa MSLP:



[Edit – August 9th PM]

The MSLP of the current cyclone is now down to 976 hPA:


The latest WaveWatch III forecast has increased the predicted peak height and period of the resulting waves once again:

Significant_height_of_combined_w in multi_1.glo_30mext.20170809_00037

Mean_period_of_wind_waves_surfac in multi_1.glo_15mext.2070809_00037B


[Edit – August 10th]

Large holes are appearing in the sea ice on the other side of the Arctic too. Take a look north of the Laptev Sea for example:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the "Laptev Bite" polynya on August 10th 2017
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the “Laptev Bite” polynya on August 10th 2017

Meanwhile the current cyclone on the Pacific side of the North Pole appears to have bottomed out at 974 hPa:



[Edit – August 11th]

Here’s the latest sea ice concentration one day delta map from Wipneus:

Despite the expected divergence caused by a low pressure area crossing the ice, both are and extent of sea ice on the Pacific side of the Arctic are still falling.


[Edit – August 12th]

The waves are considerably smaller in the Beaufort Sea today, but not in the Bering Strait!

Significant_height_of_combined_w in multi_1.glo_30mext.20170812-00Z_00007

Here’s the latest one day delta map:


and here’s video showing the motion of sea ice in the Beaufort & Chukchi Seas so far this summer:


[Edit – August 13th]

Here’s an animation from Wipneus revealing the effect of the two recent cyclones on the Pacific side, plus everything else that’s been going on in the Arctic:


Click the image to see a much larger (3.3 Mb) version.


[Edit – August 16th]

AMSR2 Arctic sea ice extent has taken another tumble, and has dropped below 2016:


Only 2012 left to beat!


[Edit – August 18th]

A PIOMAS mid month update has been released, including gridded thickness data. 2017 modelled volume has failed to follow 2012’s trajectory towards the September minimum, and is now on a par with 2011:




[Edit – August 21st]

After a “brief hiatus” in the wake of the recent cyclones Arctic sea ice area has posted a new low for the year:


Extent has yet to follow suit:


The main loss of area has been in the “Beaufort Bite” once again:



[Edit – August 24th]

The SIPN August sea ice outlook has been released. Here are the predictions:

Watch this space!