Arctic Ice Coasting Sept. 12

Crystal Serenity touring in the Arctic Northwest Passage 2016 and 2017.

With the most typical day for annual minimum a week away, watching Arctic ice is like watching an ocean liner coasting to a halt before reversing engines.  A recent post reported that ice extents  are stabilizing around 4.7M km2 in recent days, and more importantly, some refreezing in the central seas.  As discussed in Arctic Heart Beat, the marginal shelf seas seldom have ice at annual minimum, typically on or about day 260.  The image below shows the progression of ice extents from 2007 to 2017 on day 254 with six days to go.

Click on image to enlarge.


Yesterday was day 254 and the graph below shows 2017 compared with other years and the decadal average during the last 3 weeks.

For the last week MASIE and SII are showing the same extent, now about 70k km2 above the 10 year average.  Only four years in the decade had more ice on this day.  2007 is 300k km2 lower, 2016 500k km2 lower, and at the bottom is 2012 1.1M km2 below 2017.  A recent post on August storms discussed the dramatic impact on 2012 and 2016, which is evident as well in the chart.  The table compares 2017, decadal average and 2007 for the regions containing ice at this time.

Region 2017254 Day 254
2017-Ave. 2007254 2017-2007
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 4652293 4583359 68934 4349612 302681
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 393863 480306 -86443 599679 -205815
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 131705 173275 -41570 74733 56973
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 279268 286737 -7468 311 278957
 (4) Laptev_Sea 205794 149612 56182 247496 -41702
 (5) Kara_Sea 18486 29190 -10705 62274 -43788
 (6) Barents_Sea 4313 25209 -20896 7384 -3071
 (7) Greenland_Sea 107969 211322 -103353 324789 -216820
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 45146 22235 22911 21406 23740
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 370958 262283 108675 210083 160875
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1432 11057 -9625 16552 -15120
 (11) Central_Arctic 3092201 2931173 161028 2783651 308551

The deficits continue to be on the Pacific side, especially Beaufort, and also Greenland Sea is down this year.  These are more than offset by large surpluses in the Central Arctic and Canadian Archipelago, and also Laptev.  East Siberian sea also has surplus ice this year compared to 2007.

aer Atmospheric and Environmental Research

September 5, 2017 Dr. Judah Cohen of AER posted his monthly forecast for the Arctic and NH based on the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).  Excerpts below.

The AO is currently slightly negative (Figure 1), reflective of mostly positive geopotential height anomalies across the Arctic and mixed geopotential height anomalies across the mid-latitudes of the NH (Figure 2). Geopotential height anomalies are mostly negative across Greenland and Iceland (Figure 2), and therefore the NAO is slightly positive.
Figure 1. (a) The predicted daily-mean near-surface AO from the 00Z 5 September 2017 GFS ensemble. Gray lines indicate the AO index from each individual ensemble member, with the ensemble-mean AO index given by the red line with squares.

The AO is predicted to straddle neutral next week as geopotential height anomalies remain mixed across the Arctic. Similarly, with mixed geopotential height anomalies stretching across Greenland and Iceland, the NAO will likely be near neutral as well.  

(Note: AO and NAO are signed differently than one might expect; the reference point is outside the Arctic itself.  Thus negative phases of these indices mean higher pressures in the Arctic and lower outside, while positive phases indicate lower pressures in the Arctic.  Now that the Arctic sun is setting, the main issue for ice extent is storminess which requires low Arctic pressures.)


It is the first week of fall, a season of transition from summer to winter. One important sign IMO of this seasonal transition is the return of the polar vortex in the stratosphere. The models predict the possible formation of the polar vortex sometime next week. Starting in October, I will be watching variability in the polar vortex for signs of pattern changes in the weather across the NH.

Another sign of the seasonal transition is the minimum in Arctic sea ice extent, which will be achieved in the coming days and/or weeks. The trajectory of sea ice melt has slowed since early August. In my last blog I suggested the possibility that the sea ice minimum could be similar to the years 2008 and 2010 and that is looking more likely but is difficult to predict. Over the coming months, I will be following Arctic sea ice variability for signs of the severity of the upcoming winter. Our understanding for how anomalies in sea ice extent influence the weather in the mid-latitudes is still immature IMO but I do think that important progress has been made recently.

Another sign of the transition from summer to winter is the return of snowfall to the NH. Snowfall over the sea ice in August probably helped retard the melt of sea ice and snowfall is now even occurring over Siberia and Alaska but is still very regionalized. Again I will be monitoring the advance of snow cover extent across the continents for signs of the strength of the polar vortex and the possible resultant weather.

Finally I find it interesting that while the atmospheric circulation has transitioned from the dominant summer pattern across Eurasia it has not across North America. The dominant summer pattern across Eurasia was ridging across Europe (with the exception of Northern Europe) and East Asia but with troughing in Western Asia. The forecast for the coming weeks is the opposite with troughs across Europe and East Asia but ridging in Western Asia. This is an overall cooler pattern than the dominant summer pattern. However across North America there are no similar signs of transition. The dominant summer pattern was strong ridging across western North America and troughing in eastern North America and at least for now that pattern looks to continue for much of the month of September. I don’t know the reason behind the persistent western ridge/eastern trough pattern across North America but how long this pattern can persist will obviously have important implications for the weather across North America in the coming months.


Bottom line, looks like September weather will be ordinary in the Arctic with seasonal cooling in the NH.  Dr. Cohen also thinks the annual ice extent minimum will be near average for the decade.  While the monthly average is final only at September end, this week will set the tone and likely result.




  1. angech · September 12, 2017

    6th lowest? Nearly 7th but that is gone. Still a fantastic result so far given the poor start to the year.
    Fingers crossed she is cruising.


  2. ArndB · September 13, 2017

    From the Summary: “Dr. Cohen also thinks the annual ice extent minimum will be near average for the decade.”

    Hopefully!! Nevertheless it seems time to consider the impact of navigation and explorations in the Arctic region as addressed in a recent post (04. Sept.) at:
    ___”They warm-up the Arctic! Shipping, Off-Shore, Science etc.! Do they want to know how they contribute to Arctic warming? Not in the least!”

    With h/t to


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