This is the January of our ice extent

Click on image to enlarge

Apologies to Shakespeare and Richard III for the title to this post.

The Arctic ice beast is slouching toward mid-March maximum with some peculiarities from the meandering polar vortex.  More on that from Dr. Judah Cohen later on.

A week ago the ice watch post noted the recovery in Okhotsk which has continued and is now above average for the date.  Bering sea ice is below normal and the main reason for lower overall extent this year.

Ice extents for January appear in the graph below; 2018 is shown to January 15, other years for the full month.  11 year average is 2007 to 2017 inclusive.

Click on image to enlarge.

Note that 2007 caught and exceeded the 11 year average ending the month tied.  2018 has now matched 2017 though both lag behind average having started the year in deficit. SII 2018 is running about 200k km2 less than MASIE for the month.

Below is the analysis of regions on day 015.  Average is for 2007 to 2017 inclusive.

Region 2018015 Day 015 
2018-Ave. 2017015 2018-2017
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 13250556 13887982 -637426 13250750 -194
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070445 1070178 267 1070445 0
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 965971 965842 129 964251 1720
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087120 1087134 -14 1087137 -18
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 897842 3 897845 0
 (5) Kara_Sea 918904 911229 7675 866224 52680
 (6) Barents_Sea 329631 545176 -215546 334131 -4500
 (7) Greenland_Sea 492704 625241 -132536 544015 -51311
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1181843 1184801 -2957 1284241 -102397
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 853109 853028 81 853214 -106
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1260838 1252263 8575 1260887 -49
 (11) Central_Arctic 3182898 3216678 -33780 3164223 18676
 (12) Bering_Sea 256467 558895 -302428 253648 2819
 (13) Baltic_Sea 18186 51436 -33249 29954 -11768
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 701953 615696 86257 617141 84813

The core of the Arctic is frozen solid and for the date 2018 is 4.6% below average.  The difference is mainly due to Bering Sea 64% below average and Barents 40% down. The recovering ice in Okhotsk is now above both the average and the extent last year at this time.

Background:  Updated Winter Forecast by Dr. Judah Cohen, January 15, 2018

Dr. Judah Cohen of AER published his current Arctic Oscillation and Polar Vortex Analysis and Forecast on January 15, 2018. His comments are always enlightening, and particularly so this time. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

In previous blogs, I have often discussed winter 2013/14 as possibly the best analog for this winter so far. I do believe that the stratospheric PV disruption that occurred in late December and the subsequent response in the tropospheric circulation are similar to what occurred repeatedly in winter 2013/14. However, I think the two winters are now diverging. The single large-scale weather feature that signals to me a divergence from this winter and 2013/14 is the widespread area of below normal temperatures across northern Eurasia beginning this week but predicted to become dominant across the continent next week. The last winter where persistent extensive below normal temperatures where observed across Northern Eurasia was winter 2012/13. That is also the last winter that a mid-winter major warming was observed (where the mean zonal wind reverses at 60°N and at 10hPa), which occurred the second week in January. I do consider that a major warming occurred in 2015/16 but that was in March and subsequently dovetailed into a final warming.

There are signs that a disruption of the stratospheric PV will occur but the timing and magnitude remains uncertain. But based on the anticipated widespread area of below normal temperatures across Northern Eurasia I do believe that the most significant stratospheric PV disruption of the winter is likely in the coming weeks. Our polar vortex forecast model predicts that the PV disruption will peak the second week of February. The model is speculative but a marker to watch. This anticipated stratospheric disruption is likely to differ from the stratospheric PV disruption in late December where the resultant below normal temperatures were focused across North America while much of Eurasia remained relatively mild. If I am correct that a subsequent stratospheric PV disruption will be more significant than the one in December, then I expect the focus of the resultant cold temperatures to be across northern Eurasia, especially Siberia. Temperatures would likely average below normal across much of Siberia and likely elsewhere across northern Eurasia, possibly through the end of February.

The impacts of a more significant stratospheric PV disruption would be less certain across North America. Still I would consider such a PV disruption to increase the probability of cold temperatures following the disruption across eastern North America. Following the mid-winter major warming in January 2013 temperatures initially turned cold across the Western US but the core of below normal temperatures migrated east as the winter progressed. The Global Forecast System (GFS) is predicting the core of below normal temperatures to be focused in Western Canada during the second half of January. However, my expectation would be for the core of the below normal temperatures to slowly migrate southeastward with time and as of now I favor a relatively cold February in southeastern Canada and the Eastern US.

A wild card in North American weather all winter has been ridging/blocking in the North Pacific. For the first half of the winter it was centered in the Gulf of Alaska and along the west coast of North America, contributing to warm temperatures in western North America but cold temperatures in eastern North America. Latest weather model runs are predicting a westward retrogression of this blocking closer to the Aleutians. This position favors cold temperatures in western North America but warm temperatures in eastern North America. And cold temperatures may be focused in western North America for the remainder of the winter if the ridging remains near the Aleutians but I expect that an eventual PV disruption will at least partially offset or cancel warming forced by the central North Pacific ridging.


Whichever fork of the road the ice takes, the Polar Bears had a very happy New Years Day.




  1. Graeme · January 16, 2018

    There is little mention of Europe apart from Eurasia with most info concentrated on Siberia and the far east? I am interested in Europe and especially how Germany renewable energy is standing up to the grinding cold!


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