Arctic Ice Takes Revenge

Vessels Kapitan Dranitsyn and Admiral Makarov ‘marooned’ in east for the rest of winter after getting trapped off Chukotka.

Russian Convoy Takes Advantage of Reduced Arctic Ice Extent

In the first such crossing since Soviet times, the convoy had earlier delivered supplies for the world’s first floating heat and power plant to be assembled in Chukotka, Russia’s most easternmost region, after a successful journey from Arkhangelsk to Pevek lasting from 14 December to 7 January.

The ease of the sailing was seen as a sign that climate warming in the Arctic can open up shipping lanes even in midwinter.  From the Siberian Times, Blow to Northern Sea Route as voyages of two icebreakers are… broken by ice

Reports of Arctic Ice Demise Prove Premature

But, despite significant temperature rises across the northern latitudes in recent years, the vessels became quickly stuck in thick, compressed ice on their return journey.

Initially there were hopes that the icebreakers could force their way out and continue their voyage within a week, and aerial reconnaissance was deployed in a search routes from the ice clog.

They are currently trapped by sudden thick ice around Chukotka’s northernmost cape Shelagsky, some 24 nautical miles from Pevek, in some of Russia’s most exposed waters.

Ruslan Nazarov, chief of Chukotka’s emergencies service, said: ‘The ice around Cape Shelagsky is at 10 points. The ice fields are more than one metre thick. The ice compression is strong and hummocks are higher than 2.5 metres.

Embarrassing But Not Life-threatening

The situation is not critical, Nazarov said, stressing that the regional ministry of emergencies and Chukotka government keep a close eye on it. ‘All the ships have enough fuel, food and all other necessities.’

A spokesman for Rosmorport has announced the icebreakers will delay a return until probably May or early June. ‘The vessels will remain for the winter because of the very heavy severe ice conditions,’ he said.

All the vessel got out of the ice, and three of them – Captain Dranitsyn and the two cargo ships – returned to Pevek. The Admiral Makarov moved further east to continue working for Rosmorport in clearing sea routes.

Officials said the icebreakers could have gone further through the ice but there was ‘a very high risk of significant damage’ to the supply ships, and it was decided to postpone the return to Archangelsk.

Arctic Ice Picks Up the Pace Everywhere

After a slow recovery in October and December, ice extent has picked considerably in recent weeks.


The graph shows how 2017 has surged to approach 2016 and the 11-year average, while exceeding 2006 (the decadal low year) by almost 500k km2.  Sea Ice Index (SII satellite product) lags behind by more than 300k km2, as it has throughout January.

The table shows ice extents across the seas within the Arctic area.

Region 2017025 Day 025
2006025 2016-2006
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 14023232 14217519 -194287 13473190 550042
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070445 1070111 334 1069711 734
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 966006 966001 5 966006 0
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087137 1087131 6 1087103 35
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 897835 10 897773 71
 (5) Kara_Sea 914838 918784 -3946 897490 17348
 (6) Barents_Sea 390190 547198 -157007 310539 79651
 (7) Greenland_Sea 646404 589533 56871 516605 129799
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1328099 1275341 52758 1087283 240815
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 853214 852982 232 852715 499
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1260887 1260842 45 1260779 108
 (11) Central_Arctic 3138059 3210975 -72916 3109874 28185
 (12) Bering_Sea 488459 689158 -200699 817517 -329058
 (13) Baltic_Sea 32910 78733 -45822 53850 -20939
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 908522 712635 195887 470477 438045
 (15) Yellow_Sea 20850 26566 -5716 11722 9128
 (16) Cook_Inlet 7952 11204 -3252 8941 -989

On the Russsian side, Chukchi through Laptev are all at maximums, as evidenced in the reports from the Siberian Times.  Kara is also now average and well ahead of 2006.  Barents continues to be in deficit to average, but in surplus to 2006.  On the Canadian side, all seas are above average, with Greenland and Baffin well into surpluses.

The main difference between 2017 and the average is Bering Sea down by 200k km2.  Bering Sea is the only place with less 2017 ice than 2006.  On the other hand, Okhotsk is 200k km2 above average and 400k km2 above 2006.


Just when they thought it was safe to go back in the winter water, the ice returns.  As Siberian Times concluded:

But the saga shows that despite all the talk of climate change and warming in the Arctic, thick ice can prevent convoys from crossing the Northern Sea Route in deep winter.



  1. Climatism · January 26, 2017

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    Arctic sea-ice “death spiral” update …


  2. Hifast · January 27, 2017

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.


  3. Pingback: Arctic Ice Takes Revenge | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)
  4. 4TimesAYear · January 28, 2017

    Reblogged this on 4timesayear's Blog.


  5. Alexander Riccio · January 28, 2017

    A couple questions:

    Why the use of an 11 year average, instead of the standard 30 year average?

    Why are you only looking at January? You mention October, and December, but not November?


    • Ron Clutz · January 28, 2017

      Thanks for commenting. You may now know that MASIE is the most accurate dataset, but is only available starting with 2006, thus an 11-year average. That is informative, since 2007 was an unusually low annual extent, and the years since have been higher. If you look on my blog, you will see many reports covering all the months.


      • Ron Clutz · January 28, 2017

        Sorrry, may not know.


      • Alexander Riccio · January 30, 2017

        I wasn’t familiar with the accuracy of MASIE. Now that I’m looking at the docs, I see this:

        “When should I use MASIE and when should I use the Sea Ice Index?

        Use the Sea Ice Index when comparing trends in sea ice over time or when consistency is important. Even then, the monthly, not the daily, Sea Ice Index views should be used to look at trends in sea ice.”

        …Which seems to recommend against using it in this kind of analysis?


      • Ron Clutz · January 30, 2017

        That advice is obsolete, since NSIDC certified that the record since 2006 is consistent. Lack of consistency prior to that time was the reason for not trusting it for climatology. However, researchers such as Partridge et al. preferred the ice charts for their precision and greater accuracy, and for looking at history prior to 1979 satellite record.


    • Ron Clutz · January 28, 2017
  6. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #256 | Watts Up With That?
  7. Malte H · February 1, 2017

    I’d like to request permission to use the two images of the trapped icebreakers for a story for The Arctic Institute, a non-profit think tank. Do you know who to credit for the images. Thank you!


    • Ron Clutz · February 1, 2017

      Malte, follow the link to Siberian Times article where the images come from. If you want permission, it should come from them.


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