As daylight has returned to Antarctica it is straightforward to pick out polynya forming on the edge of the Antarctic continent.
This one by the Stange Ice Shelf and Rydberg Peninsula caught my eye. It is a latent heat polynya formed as the winds push the sea ice away from the land to reveal the ocean that appears black beneath.
The wispy trails of grey which appear in the black are new sea ice forming as frazil ice.
This is the location of the peninsula.
I visited that area in 2007 and took this picture. You can a thin skim of young nilas ice in front of the ice shelf, and sea smoke too.
This incredible series has been made by the BBC Natural History Unit with the Open University as co-producers. It has seven stunning episodes and will be broadcast in the UK at the end of October 2017.
Yesterday was the World Royal Premiere at the BFI Imax with Sir David Attenborough, Prince William, Radiohead, Hans Zimmer, and a team of BBC program makers that is too long for this post.
The prequel above was released after the premiere.
Episode one one the big Imax screen was stunning, and just after there was a Q&A led by Liz Bonnin with some of the key people:
Sir David Attenborough, James Honeyborne, Orla Doherty, Mark Brownlow and Hans Zimmer.
It's been a brilliant experience to work with so many incredible film makers - many of whom also have PhDs to go with their artistic and technical talent. You often hear about how the media want to tell their own story - but in my experience the NHU just want it to be the best - and, of course, correct.
I'm proud to have been a small cog in the mighty and incredible machine that made this series, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it is received.
It has been an amazing experience to be one of four marine scientists at The Open University to have contributed to the series. As well as helping the production team we've been developing interactive learning materials and a poster for the general public and our students that will also be released at the end of October.
I hope the film makers get the awards I think they deserve for making such a powerful work.
The Weddell Sea polynya is an area of open water that sometimes appears in the Weddell Sea over a relatively shallow region called Maud Rise.
In the latest satellite imagery from the DMSP satellite you can see the lower concentration sea ice as the darker blue colour. If you look at the MODIS imagery for the same date you can clear see black which indicates open water in the pack ice.
This movie shows the Antarctic sea ice extent from 1 Feb to 25 July 2017. The data come from the DMSP SMMI sensor, and it shows the expansion of the sea ice as winter progresses.
For me the stand out feature is how late the sea ice expands in the Bellingshausen Sea. I think this is a feature of the super low sea ice last year, and the amount of time it took to lose the extra heat absorbed by the ocean.
The NSDIC data set shows the sea ice is lower than we've seen before by satellite.
Currently the Antarctic sea ice extent is ~450 thousand km2 below 1981-2010 median.
I thought it was time to look at the sea ice data as the summer Arctic melt proceeds.
The image below shows the mean sea ice extent 1989-93 on 22 July, the sea ice extent 22 July 2017, and the difference between the two data sets. Reds imply less sea ice than the mean 1989-93, and blues an increased sea ice extent.
As we would expect, compared with the 1989-93 data the sea ice edge is consistently further north. Things that stand out for me are the virtually open water in the Barents and Kara Seas. This region was very slow to freeze over in the autumn and winter of 2016, so I would have expected the sea ice there to be relatively thin at the end of the Arctic winter.
Overall the area of the Arctic Ocean covered with sea ice is low. Some will note it is currently above the record low in 2012, but it's only 90,000 km2 above that. To me that is not that significant.
What is significant is the sea ice 22 July 2017 is ~1.7 million km2 below the median extent from 1981-2010.
I looked a couple of days ago at the sea ice in the North West Passage (19 July 2017), and it is starting to open up.
The yellow line traces out possible ship routes through the North West Passage and whilst there is still ~1200 km of sea ice on that route, when you compare the region to the longer term data you can see how low this is compared the historical record.
It may be this year that the passage may not open at all, but taken together the two plots are a a good example of how we can expect the north west passage to become consistently open as the Arctic continues to warm.
This is the Antarctic Peninsula and the outline of A68 from the satellite image on 14 July 2017 shown in black. The ice front is from the Bedmap2 data set (so a little out of date), and the bathymetry from the IBCSO data set.
In the map below, the shaded colour is the distance of any point on the sea bed to the closest actual depth measurement.
So the dark blue stripes labelled in the Weddell Sea are actually ship tracks - and the dark colours are good depth data. These measurements will have been made by icebreaker.
Just in front of A68 there is a very large area where no ship has been within ~80 km.
One small note on the size. I digitized the iceberg from a satellite image (a KML File can be downloaded). On twitter today there were satellite images showing fractures already.
But Martin O'Leary of the MIDAS team posted today on twitter that to the untrained eye looks like iceberg, is very likely fast ice (so thick sea ice that is "fast" to A68 - but only a few metres thick.)
There is not a consistent trend in Antarctic sea ice extent, and much regional interannual variability. The plot below shows the sea ice extent on 13 May for each of the years 1989-95, and 13 May 2017.
The image above shows the sort of variability we expect in the Antarctic sea ice extent. It is helpful too to see where the sea is currently is and isn't compared with the mean from 1989-93.
The regions in May 2017 with the greatest deficit of sea ice remain the Amundsen and Ross Sea, and the Eastern Weddell Sea and off the coast of Dronning Maud land. As I said in my last Antarctic sea ice post it is likely the freeze up is delayed because of the heat gained by the ocean in the Antarctic summer of 2016/17.
You can also see in the South West Weddell Sea the Ronne Polynya I wrote about in March 2017 is still seen in the sea ice concentration data. In the visible satellite data you can also see this open water.
In the Sentinel 1 SAR data from the 15 May (From PolarView), the growth of the sea ice in the polynya is clear.
This ice growth is important for the ocean as it means the salinity of the waters just beneath the sea ice will be increasing.
I'll keep watching the polynya to see if and when it closes up. And I will also keep looking at the sea ice.