April Arctic Ice Beats Expectations

Residents view the first iceberg of the season as it passes the South Shore, also known as “Iceberg Alley,” near Ferryland, Newfoundland, Canada, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Jody Martin

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 by 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.

April 2017 is now complete. Focusing on the Arctic apart from Pacific marginal seas, remarkably the month ends with the same extent as it began at 13M km2. The graph below shows an early fluctuation down, followed by later gains and a gentle descent. May begins with the Arctic seas showing a surplus of ~400k km2 above average.

While the Arctic ocean ice is persisting, Bering and Okhotsk extents have retreated ahead of schedule, as the graph below shows.  Presently Bering and Okhotsk combined are 50% of decadal average, down by 500k km2.

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.  Note the persistent ice blocking Newfoundland on the bottom right, and encasing Svalbard on the upper left.


The Chart below shows the traditional view of NH ice extents, which includes the Pacific seas together with the Arctic seas.  2017 is only slightly lower than average on this basis, despite a deficit of 500k km2 in Bering and Okhotsk, which obscures the ice surpluses elsewhere.  Comparisons with Sea Ice Index (SII) and 2007 are also shown.


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)


  1. craigm350 · May 5, 2017

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    The details are important to form a proper perception of any natural process, including dynamics of sea ice waxing and waning.



  2. angech · May 6, 2017

    Piomas seems entrenched in a lower mode at the moment but dmi improving. Do you expect piomas to improve soon as well


  3. Ron Clutz · May 6, 2017

    Thanks for commenting angech. My focus is on MASIE since others seem to ignore it, despite its higher resolution and precision. The discrepancy between Piomas and DMI thickness shows that volume measures depend on models with some invalid parameters, so I place no confidence on them.
    I am an Arctic ice watcher, interested to see how this year’s pattern unfolds. In the next month or so, Bering and Okhotsk will match the decadal average, and the resilience of the ice extents will be more evident in the melting of the Central and Atlantic sea ice. Bear in mind that the ingress of warmer ocean water is the main driver of melting ice, and that most of this comes in from the North Atlantic by way of Barents.


  4. angech · May 9, 2017

    Would love to see a new 3 years of freezing up all the same.


    • Ron Clutz · May 9, 2017

      angech, I know of what you speak. In the short term, growing Arctic ice would be a rebuke to climatists who claim declining ice proves global warming. A blow to their smug certainty would be welcome, even though Arctic ice oscillates for reasons having little to do with CO2 or fossil fuels. As I have posted here with scientific references, it is the 3 Ws–Water, Wind and Weather–that drive the waxing and waning of the ice. We don’t cause it to change, and we can’t fix it.
      Still, in the longer view a slight decline of Arctic ice is a good thing, because it means we are that much further away from the next ice age.


  5. brad tittle · May 18, 2017

    There is a concept that gets missed in so many charts. 0 has meaning. When we don’t start charts at 0, we suppress the meaning of zero. Anytime I see someone suppress zero, I am highly confident they are attempting to hide something from themselves. Anomalies are just a fancy way of suppressing zero. I am not opposed to using anomalies. If someone is using them, there should be an absolute version of the chart RIGHT NEXT TO IT.

    Anyone who studies anomalies that doesn’t keep the absolute version of the raw data nearby, is on the path to fooling themselves about the relevance of their data.


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