Facts About the Arctic in October 2020

Let’s start this somewhat belated article by looking at Arctic sea ice volume. The mid month PIOMAS gridded thickness numbers have been released to reveal these volume graphs:

Minimum volume for 2021 was 4.03 thousand km3 on September 17th, 2nd lowest in the PSC record.

Modelled volume is now in a “statistical tie” with 2012 for lowest on record for mid October. Here too is the PIOMAS thickness map:

Meanwhile for comparison purposes here is the first merged Cryosat-2/SMOS thickness map of the 2020/21 freezing season, hot off the presses at the Alfred Wegener Institute:

Whichever way you look at it there certainly isn’t much ice on the Siberian side of the Arctic at the moment! However CryoSat-2 and PIOMAS don’t seem to be able to agree on where the thickest ice in the Arctic is at the moment. It certainly isn’t anywhere near the North Pole though. According to the Barents Observer:

The Arktika icebreaker will have to undergo a second test-voyage to prove its capabilities to crush thick and hard sea-ice.

Photo: Rosatomflot

After reaching the North Pole on her maiden voyage, the communication department of Atomflot sent a press release claiming the vessel to have confirmed its characteristics in ice conditions. The release also said Arktika on the way to the North Pole sailed through three meters ice thickness.

The statement was likely premature. Head of the icebreakers acceptance team, Oleg Shchapin, says new tests in the ice have to take place, news agency TASS reports.

“Ice tests are still ahead, probably this year, because now ice tests did not work out, the ice thickness was 1,1 to 1,2 meters. It was thin and loose, the icebreaker received no resistance at all,” Shchapin says.

He adds: “We tried to find a three-meters ice floe, but they did not find it.”

[Edit – October 31st]

JAXA extent is belatedly rising fast:

The next question to be answered is if and when it crosses above 2016.

Meanwhile AMSR2 suggests that the Northern Sea Route is now closed in the vicinity of the Vilkitsky Strait:

10 thoughts on “Facts About the Arctic in October 2020

  1. Jim, welcome back! I was disappointed to not have heard from you in a while here. However, I note that your mid-month numbers for October are a bit out of date, given that the last week is showing plunging temps and accelerating extent and volume. The open waters of the Arctic have lost enormous amounts of heat as negative feedback kicks in and causes (among other things) the Siberian coast to start icing up. We’re less than a week away from the end of the month, and it will be interesting to see where we end up after a really slow and relatively warm early beginning. BTW, in a statistic rarely watched, a slow decline in the Antarctic and rapid growth in the Arctic has now put global extent above 24M km2 per NSIDC.

    1. Sorry to disappoint Taylor, but I’ve just had a rather complicated triple coronary artery bypass graft operation.

      Normal service will be resumed shortly. Over the freezing season keep an eye on Arctic sea ice volume. It will indeed be interesting to see where we finish up in March 2021 or thereabouts. Meanwhile here’s the summer sequence:

      1. Jim! you could never disappoint -you clear expositions are worth waiting for.

        I’m sure I speak for many when we wish you a speedy recovery…

        1. Thank you for your kind words Griff.

          My recovery seems to be going very well. I passed the “stairs test” with flying colours yesterday morning. Yesterday evening I introduced an innovation in the field of post CABG light aerobic exercise.

          Dancing in the wards!

        1. Thanks very much for your kind words Taylor.

          I woke early this morning in hospital, but now I am at long last back home. More at my personal Twitter:

          This morning I awoke in a howling rage. My blood pressure is currently 134/82.

  2. Get well soon, Jim! Glad you made it back. In the states current acceptable BP limit is 120/80. I have to take medication to keep mine around that level, otherwise 134/82 and above would be a common sight on my gage.

    1. Thanks David,

      I’m now at home, and still raging. However my currently chemically assisted BP is down to 117/62 most recently. Perhaps they’d even let me into the US now, in the unlikely event that I decided I wanted to live there?!

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