Resilient Arctic Ice in May

The MASIE image shows Arctic Ocean ice is resilient and the numbers below will show how well 2017 compares to 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.

The graph below shows ice extents in the Arctic seas, excluding Bering and Okhotsk in the Pacific. Over the last 25 days 2017 Arctic ice has gone from average to a surplus of 400k km2 and is maintaining that advantage in May.  As of May 8, ice in 2007 was 600k km2 behind and 2016 was lower by 700k km2.

While the Arctic ocean ice is persisting, Bering and Okhotsk extents have retreated ahead of schedule, as the graph below shows.  The gap has persisted at 50% of decadal average over the last 3 weeks, going from 600k km2 on day 109 to 500k km2 on day 120, and presently Bering and Okhotsk combined are down by 400k km2.  Of course, eventually both seas will be ice free by September.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Kris Kristofferson song (Me and Bobby McGee)

The distinctive Pacific pattern is evident in the images of changing ice extents.  First, see how ice in Bering and Okhotsk seas has retreated the last 3 weeks..

Meanwhile, on the Atlantic side ice has grown steadily.  Note Newfoundland on the upper left has been blocked by ice only now retreating, while Svalbard on the middle right.continues to be encased.

The Chart below shows the traditional view of NH ice extents, which includes the Pacific seas together with the Arctic seas.  2017 started this period 400k km2 below average, then caught up and is now tracking slightly above the decadal average.This is despite a deficit of 400k km2 in Bering and Okhotsk, which obscures the ice surpluses elsewhere.  By comparison 2007 and 2016 are lagging behind by 400k km2..

The table below provides a more detailed description of NH ice by showing extents measured in the various seas on May 8, day 128 of the year.

Region 2017128 Day 128
2017-Ave. 2007128 2017-2007
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 13171174 13149118 22056 12792742 378432
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1061622 1056204 5418 1042771 18852
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 957567 957220 348 939928 17640
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087137 1085117 2020 1081533 5605
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 890721 7124 874837 23008
 (5) Kara_Sea 920985 902466 18519 880185 40800
 (6) Barents_Sea 487526 449413 38113 418974 68552
 (7) Greenland_Sea 705745 613061 92684 605824 99921
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1340708 1139240 201467 1035447 305260
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 850635 842522 8113 834959 15676
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1248694 1205894 42800 1199786 48908
 (11) Central_Arctic 3247448 3220316 27132 3238105 9344
 (12) Bering_Sea 191284 484937 -293653 392119 -200836
 (13) Baltic_Sea 11485 13590 -2105 10416 1070
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 160681 285356 -124675 233588 -72907

Clearly 2017 is above average everywhere, including Barents and Kara seas, with quite large surpluses in Greenland Sea and Baffin Bay.  The deficits in the Pacific are also obvious, with Bering sea down the most.


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 is a NASA satellite photo of Newfoundland Sea Ice, May 5, 2017 Source: Newsfoundsander



  1. angech · May 11, 2017

    If, if you are right then one would expect a reasonably slow decline this melt season all other things being equal.
    There might be a bit more hot water in from the pacific to reduce this effect?
    Hope you are right, fingers crossed.
    Would love to see JCH reaction and Jim Hunt.
    Would also suggest a late spike in piomas anomaly in 3 months, same reason.


  2. Ron Clutz · May 12, 2017

    A slower melt would also be consistent with reports of greater ice thickness this year in the central arctic. Pacific warming is the wild card, though most of the warmer water enters the arctic through the Atlantic.


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