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 Weather 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:
and here’s the associated wave period forecast:
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:
A long distance swell of that magnitude is going to cause some damage.
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:
Here are the end of January Arctic wide high resolution AMSR2 graphs base on University of Hamburg data:
Here is the DMI >80N temperature plot for January:
Finally, for the moment at least, here is the current Fram Strait surf forecast:
Here’s the 6 hour wave forecast for the Fram Strait from 12:00 UTC this afternoon:
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:
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:
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:
Some significant swells are currently forecast to batter the ice edge on the Atlantic side of the Arctic over the next few days.
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 destination:
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:
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. Whilst elsewhere the NSR looks to be eminently “open” already, 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”.
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:
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:
I expect that to have a noticeable effect on the already fragile sea ice by early next week, assuming the storm arrives as forecast! Will the 2017 Arctic sea ice metrics stay in amongst the recent pack or race after 2012?
Watch this space!
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