Arctic Ice Surpasses 2018 Maximum

Sea Ice Extends on the Atlantic Side: 
The animation above shows the last two weeks on the Atlantic side, with Kara achieving its annual maximum and Barents growing ice up to 86% of its max last March. In the upper right the ice solidifies down to Svalbard and fast ice forms along the mainland.  On the left, Baffin ice thickens along the Labrador coast and  a large mass forms along Newfoundland. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is nearly iced over.  Below is the ice recovery on the Pacific side.


Bering on the right retreats and then recovers to stay at 95% of its 2018 maximum.  Meanwhile Okhotsk on the left shows a surge of sea ice, gaining almost 400k km2 over these two weeks.  Bering is well below the 12 year average, while Okhotsk has already passed its 2018 maximum and is 22% above the 12 year average.

The graph below shows February progress in ice extent recovery.

2019 ice extents declined slightly to start the month, then grew rapidly in the last two weeks to nearly match the 12-year average (2007 to 2018 inclusive).  SII lags MASIE by 100k km2 at this date. 2019 is presently matching 2017, and has nearly 500k km2 more ice than 2018.

Interestingly, 2019 extent has already surpassed 14.75 M km2, the 2018 maximum reached on day 74.  Note in the graph that 2017 peaks on day 53, the maximum extent that year.  The average maximum is 15.07 M km2 on day 62, so 2019 has 11 days more to reach that level.

The table below shows the distribution of ice in the various Arctic basins.

Region 2019051 Day 051 
2019-Ave. 2018051 2019-2018
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 14785938 14847524 -61587 14303929 482009
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070498 1070200 297 1070445 53
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 965972 964755 1217 955104 10868
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087137 1087133 4 1087120 18
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 897842 3 897845 0
 (5) Kara_Sea 934970 920340 14629 917650 17319
 (6) Barents_Sea 685511 606250 79261 537870 147642
 (7) Greenland_Sea 564543 619655 -55112 440813 123730
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1527391 1487134 40257 1731868 -204477
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 853337 853036 302 853109 229
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1260903 1260717 186 1260838 66
 (11) Central_Arctic 3239858 3210652 29205 3154998 84860
 (12) Bering_Sea 428805 724586 -295781 211528 217277
 (13) Baltic_Sea 54788 107524 -52735 85965 -31177
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 1194028 977205 216823 1059514 134514

The table shows how 2019 is matching the 12-year average almost everywhere.  Barents has edged 13% ahead of average, and is much higher than last year.  The slight overall deficit is mainly due to Bering ice down nearly 300k km2 to average, only partly offset by the surplus in Okhotsk and Central Arctic.


Footnote:  At his AER blog  Arctic Oscillation and Polar Vortex Analysis and Forecasts Dr. Judah Cohen writes on February 18 regarding this cold winter in the Arctic and NH.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.


Figure ii. Analysis of surface temperature anomalies ffrom 18 November 2018 until 15 February 2019. Taken from

This winter once again we had what I would refer to as a highly anomalous stratospheric PV split but not as extreme as 2009 and the temperature anomalies for the winter, or certainly post the PV split are probably not going to look that terribly different from 2009. The largest negative departures are likely to be in western North America and Siberia. I will show the winter temperature anomalies with the AER forecast posted in November and from the dynamical models but for today’s blog a quick and dirty surface temperature plot from NOAA will do (Figure ii). The most striking temperature anomalies are what I would consider as a couplet – strong positive temperature anomalies in the Barents-Kara Seas and strong negative temperature anomalies in Siberia. This temperature couplet has been the most consistent feature of Northern Hemisphere winters of probably the past 15-20 years. This gets to the heart of the debate does Arctic change influence mid-latitude weather. I think I have been as emphatic as anybody on the planet that the answer is yes, and this winter will only strengthen my conviction. The other continental region that is likely to have negative departures is Canada and since the PV spit the largest negative departures are centered in Western Canada.


Since November, I have consistently stated that the largest sea ice anomalies and consequently the largest positive atmospheric temperature anomalies will be in the Barents-Kara Seas. I have also discussed how surprising I find it how cold the remainder of the Arctic has been this winter. As an example, I show in Figure iii the global temperature anomalies from yesterday February 17th the The Arctic positive temperature departure is 0.9°C equal to the NH and global temperature departure. This is a far cry from recent winters when the Arctic has warmed at a rate six times the rate of the remainder of the globe. Ironically the globe is currently experiencing Antarctic amplification and not Arctic amplification contrary to expectations.

My thoughts about March haven’t changed much since last week. The stratosphere has worked well as a predictor of North American temperature anomalies and for the most part they seem to support a continuation of cold temperatures focused in western North America. Despite this it is my own experience that cold air focused in western North America tends to shift east with time especially in the late winter. Therefore, based on this empirical observation I was expecting possibly a return to more sustained cold in the eastern US as winter winds down. This is now being predicted by both the GFS and ECMWF models. It is my experience that models may be too quick to predict a pattern change but they are often correct in anticipating the pattern change. But even assuming the eastern US turns colder, will it persist for more than just a few days? My confidence in such an outcome would increase if the Arctic finally warms something that has not really happened so far this winter.




  1. Gengis · February 22, 2019

    It is now not the ice extent but the thickness. The thickness will determine if the ice thaws quickly or not. Do the satellites determine thickness?


    • Ron Clutz · February 22, 2019

      Gengis, agencies like DMI produce model-driven estimates of Arctic sea ice thickness. I limit my analysis to extents because they are observation-driven. DMI says this:
      “The figures are based on calculations using the DMI operational coupled ocean- and sea-ice model HYCOM-CICE. The total sea-ice volume is a product of the sea-ice concentration and its thickness.

      “Today, the sea-ice concentration is in general well estimated using satellite products, while the sea-ice thickness is poorly known. The model gives a realistic estimate of the total amount of sea-ice within the Arctic.” (concentration means extent). FWIIW, DMI estimates of Arctic thickness have increased over the last decade.
      It’s a complicated business to get remote signals of thickness, which varies with drifting and compaction from storms and currents.

      PS The Russians also produce charts showing ice by age, another way to assess comparative thickness year to year. I’ll have a look at them.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ghengis · February 22, 2019

        Thanks will just have to wait for reports the NWPassage cannot be traversed ALL NH Summer


  2. Hifast · February 24, 2019

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.


  3. Andy May · February 26, 2019

    Reblogged this on Andy May Petrophysicist and commented:
    More on Arctic Ice by Ron Clutz.


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