Sea ice absence January 2017: The Arctic

Sea ice continues to be very low in the Arctic this winter. A geographical perspective always helps so here is the status of the sea ice concentration 18 January 2017 compared with the  1989-1993 mean on the 18 January.

RED shades = less sea ice than the 1989-93 mean on 18 January.

BLUE shades = more sea ice than the 1989-93 mean on 18 January.

The mean Arctic sea ice for the years 1989-93 on 18 January, the sea ice concentration on18 January 2017 and the difference between the two data sets. Blue shades imply more sea ice and reds imply decreased sea ice compared with the mean. The original data come from the DMSP SMMI data set at the NSIDC.
The mean Arctic sea ice for the years 1989-93 on 18 January, the sea ice concentration on18 January 2017 and the difference between the two data sets. Blue shades imply more sea ice and reds imply decreased sea ice compared with the mean. The original data come from the DMSP SMMI data set at the NSIDC.

A few interesting areas that caught my eye:

Geographic Areas in the Arctic with a strong absence of sea ice on 18 January 2017.
Geographic Areas in the Arctic with a strong absence of sea ice on 18 January 2017.

The first highlight region is the Northern Barents Sea. Sea ice has been very low here all winter, and this situation continues. Because the sea ice has been very late, the polar bears on Svalbard will be impacted, and it has been an issue in Longyearbyen....

Polar bears in Longyearbyen
Polar bears in Longyearbyen.

Of maybe more interest is the Barents Sea ocean where the water is open to animals. The specialist sea ice animals will be limited to the north.

In the Northern Bering Sea the ice edge is still quite a bit farther north. I don't know the region enough to speculate on impacts.

The Sea of Okhotsk is an interesting one. If you look at the NSDIC pages you can see that the sea ice extent is currently on the median sea ice extent (1981-2010) - so in their plots it doesn't look low. But I don't think this makes much sense as over this time the sea ice has reduced so much. That is why I used a mean concentration for the period 1989-93 - which is just before the rapid decrease in Arctic sea ice. Okhotsk and the sea ice that is formed there has been found to be very important for the formation of a major Pacific Water mass  (WOCE section P1W in the Sea of Okhotsk: 1. Oceanographic data description), so we could expect future changes in the North Pacific. It was also the site of some top cold war submarine spying action if you are interesting in that sort of thing (A Tale of Daring American Submarine Espionage).

I have written about the Odden Ice Tongue previously. It's what I did my PhD on, and it's gone.

Finally the relatively low concentration in the central Arctic has been present for months now. Unless their is a big change I would expect an early break out in the spring. Particularly as Zach Labe keeps pointing out this year is continuing to be very warm:

So where is there more sea ice? In the Eastern Siberian Sea north of Russia you can see the sea ice is at the climatic mean (white /  very pale blue). That means the sea ice is present, it is still a major hazard for navigation and just like Nansen deliberately did in 1893, ships still get stuck.

Captain Snider (Martech Polar) tweeted this story a couple of days ago...

I do like the picture in the story. It's winter and it's dark.

The Siberian Times 17 January 2017.
The Siberian Times 17 January 2017.

However whilst ships still get stuck, the future seems rather clear. The release of the 2016 temperature data show the clear Arctic Amplification:

Arctic anomalies this year were close to 4ºC above the late 19th Century, over 3 times as big an anomaly as the global mean.
Arctic anomalies this year were close to 4ºC above the late 19th Century, over 3 times as big an anomaly as the global mean. From www.realclimate.org.

I hope this puts a little more context on the excellent data plots from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Arctic sea ice extent to 19 January 2018 from NSIDC.
Arctic sea ice extent to 19 January 2018 from NSIDC.

The Arctic sea ice continues at record low extents.

One thought on “Sea ice absence January 2017: The Arctic

  1. Pingback:

Leave a Reply