Dec. 22 Arctic Ice Nearly Normal

The image above, supported by the table later on shows that in December ice has recovered in the central Arctic with open water found only on the margins, as is typical this time of year. The animation shows progression of ice extent from Dec. 1 to Dec. 22, 2019.

Most dramatic is Hudson Bay on the left filling in over these 3 weeks, from 445k km2 up to 1214k km2, 96% of maximum. At the top, Chukchi Sea also ices over, from 589k km2 to 933k km2, 97% of max. Above Chukchi is Bering Sea just starting with fast ice, and Okhotsk upper right growing ice as usual. The two places lagging behind in ice recovery are Bering Sea and Baffin Bay.

The graph below shows the ice extent growing during December compared to some other years and the 12 year average (2007 to 2018 inclusive).

Note that the  NH ice extent 12 year average increases almost 2M km2 during December, up to 13.1M km2. MASIE 2019 shows a faster icing rate, starting 600k km2 lower than average and now down 200k km2, or 1.5%. MASIE and SII are tracking quite closely this month.  By month end all years appear to be converging on the 12-year average.

Region 2019356 Day 356 Average 2019-Ave. 2010356 2019-2010
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 12428357 12623541  -195184  12257118 171239 
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070223 1070266  -42  1070445 -222 
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 933276 953650  -20374  964317 -31041 
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087137 1087133  1087137
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 897842  897845
 (5) Kara_Sea 929742 864955  64786  934937 -5195 
 (6) Barents_Sea 447093 358194  88899  607130 -160037 
 (7) Greenland_Sea 533666 562497  -28831  579647 -45980 
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 751185 924722  -173536  630041 121144 
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 854282 853082  1201  853214 1068 
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1213848 1199010  14839  767479 446370 
 (11) Central_Arctic 3225391 3199892  25499  3244808 -19417 
 (12) Bering_Sea 147493 312873  -165379  219969 -72475 
 (13) Baltic_Sea 11462 20025  -8564  100363 -88902 
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 324167 306066  18101  283712 40455 

The table shows where the ice is distributed compared to average.  Bering Sea and Baffin Bay have the only large deficits to average, while Kara and Barents Seas are in surplus.

Footnote:  Interesting comments today by Dr. Judah Cohen at his blog regarding the Arctic fluctuations. Excerpts with my bolds.

I have said many times the first thing that you learn as a seasonal forecaster is humility and these are one of those times. What is humbling me at the moment is that I have expected a weakening of the stratospheric polar vortex (PV) based on fall Arctic predictors – extensive Siberian snow cover, more limited Arctic sea ice extent and a relatively warm Arctic. Following the PV weakening or disruption, severe winter weather would be more frequent at least regionally across the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere (NH). But to be honest it is hard to see from today’s viewpoint how this verifies. And as I have shared on Twitter the new operational GFS, the FV3, has been especially bullish on a strong PV.

The biggest challenge that I see right now is the center of low mid-tropospheric heights currently just north of Alaska and is expected to expand in breadth over the next two weeks enough so to fill the entire Arctic basin. This a fairly class pattern of low heights in the Arctic and high heights in the mid-latitudes resulting in a cold Arctic/warm continents pattern, all consistent with a positive AO. It seems a bit ironic (at least to me) that with the record low sea ice in the Chukchi-Bering seas this fall, the incredibly warm year Alaska just experienced both in part due to persistent ridging in the region, this same region is predicted to now experience an extended period of low heights and below normal temperatures. As an aside, this is something that I had a hard time anticipating even just a few weeks ago. 

So, for now I remain steadfast in the winter forecast that based on high fall snow cover/low Arctic sea ice that they will in tandem perturb the PV. Given the westerly quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) I expect a scenario somewhere between winter 2016/17 and winter 2017/18. Both of those winters were westerly QBO winters and the most significant disruption of the stratospheric PV took place in February.

Illustration by Eleanor Lutz shows Earth’s seasonal climate changes. If played in full screen, the four corners present views from top, bottom and sides.


  1. oiltranslator · December 23, 2019

    It bothers me these graphs fall below the 12-yr average, yet temperatures recorded by thermometer stations that have operated for 100 years show no increase. What is happening is that as the sea is getting siltier and saltier, its uranium content is increasing. Heat caused by the slow decay of isotopes in water can’t help but produce heat, but how much?


    • Ron Clutz · December 23, 2019

      oil, as I have said before, Arctic ice extent varies according to the three Ws: Water, Wind and Weather. When the warm water from the gulf stream penetrates farther, ice is less. The same is true on the Pacific side through Bering Strait, but much lower volume. The the wind patterns shifting bring incusions of warm air or not, affecting the ice formation rates. Finally, the cyclonic activity can make a big difference as we saw in 2012.
      CO2, not so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hifast · December 24, 2019

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.


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  5. Andy May · December 24, 2019

    Great post Ron, thanks.


    • Ron Clutz · December 24, 2019

      Thanks for that Andy. Best wishes for an unalarming new year.


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