Arctic Ice Goes Above Average

Heavy ice is making it impossible for fishermen from the Twillingate area to get to their crab fishing grounds. It may not open up until mid-May. (Twitter/@jeddore1972) Source: CBC

The title of this post sounds contradictory to most of what the media is saying about Arctic ice being in a tailspin, setting records for low extents, etc. And reports of ice blocking Newfoundland also fly in the face of media claims.

I will let you in on a secret: Arctic Ocean ice is doing fine and well above the decadal average. The only place where ice is below normal is outside the Arctic Ocean, namely Bering and Okhotsk Seas in the Pacific. Claims of disappearing ice pertain not to the Arctic itself, but to marginal Pacific seas that will melt out anyway in September.

I noticed the pattern this April when it became obvious that including Bering and Okhotsk in the Arctic totals gives a misleading picture. For sure they are part of Northern Hemisphere (NH) total sea ice, but currently the Pacific is going its own way, not indicative of the sea ice in the Central and Atlantic Arctic.

Graphically, MASIE shows that, excluding Bering and Okhotsk, 2017 Arctic Ocean sea ice is well above the 11 year average. Note that 2017 Arctic ice started April 100k km2 below average, and has now opened up a lead of ~300k km2 above average.


The second graph shows clearly how this year Bering and Okhotsk are abnormally low, and diverging further from average. At this point, Bering and Okhotsk combined are down to half of the decadal average.


The distinctive Pacific pattern is evident in the images of changing ice extents this April.  First, see how ice in Bering and Okhotsk seas has retreated steadily this month.

Meanwhile, on the Atlantic side ice has grown steadily.

The Chart below shows the traditional view of NH ice extents, which includes the Pacific seas together with the Arctic seas.  2017 is lower than average on this basis, though the difference is entirely due to Bering and Okhotsk, and obscures the ice surpluses elsewhere.  Comparisons with Sea Ice Index (SII) and 2007 are also shown.

The table for April 25, day 115 compares 2017 with the average (2006 to 2016), and with 2007 as the lowest year of the decade.

Region 2017115 Day 115
2017-Ave. 2007115 2017-2007
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 13643262 13917128 -273866 13213059 430203
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070445 1066352 4093 1043881 26564
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 957018 965138 -8121 959562 -2544
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087137 1086188 949 1081682 5456
 (4) Laptev_Sea 896694 893869 2825 881893 14801
 (5) Kara_Sea 931199 916361 14838 841716 89483
 (6) Barents_Sea 546729 560682 -13953 362007 184722
 (7) Greenland_Sea 692413 640185 52228 648670 43743
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1481910 1274382 207528 1155621 326289
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 853214 848182 5032 835797 17417
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1260903 1240376 20527 1192783 68120
 (11) Central_Arctic 3248013 3233561 14452 3232010 16003
 (12) Bering_Sea 305065 671415 -366349 539149 -234083
 (13) Baltic_Sea 23034 32044 -9010 18182 4852
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 286734 484320 -197586 411649 -124915

Note that all the central arctic seas are solid.  Barents is nearly average and much higher than 2007.  Baffin Bay-St.Lawrence is much above average and 2007, as shown by the Newfoundland ice that is part of the region.  The Bering and Okhotsk deficits are also obvious.


The details are important to form a proper perception of any natural process, including dynamics of sea ice waxing and waning. On closer inspection, the appearance of declining Arctic sea ice is actually another after effect of the recent El Nino and Blob phenomena, and quite restricted to the Pacific marginal seas.

Meanwhile, on the Atlantic side of the Arctic, we have sightings and reports of ice surges along the coast of Newfoundland, such amounts not seen since the 1980s. Below an image of St. John’s harbour with tons of ice, provided by Ryan Simms.


And from Twillingate: “Basically it’s just an ocean of ice ahead of us.’ – Derrick Bath, Polar Venture

Derrick Bath’s Polar Venture has spent hours trying to make it through the ice near Twillingate. (Submitted by Danny Bath)

One comment

  1. Climatism · April 27, 2017

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    More inconvenient climate change (aka global warming) news…


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