The darkest time of year at the North Pole is the Winter Solstice, this year on December 21. There has been no sunlight or even twilight since early October. The darkness lasts until the beginning of dawn in early March.
The regrowth of Arctic ice extent was slower than usual until recently. After showing resilience in September, ending higher than 2007, ice growth lagged in October, but is now rapidly ramping up toward the averages. The map above shows the lack of ice is mainly in marginal seas close to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
In the last 19 days, 2016 ice extent has grown by 100k km2 per day, compared to the 10-year average 70k km2 per day. As of day 355, 2016 ice extent is ~3% less than average (2006 to 2015). The chart also shows the variability of ice extent over the years during this month. 2015 was the highest ice recovery rate in the last decade, while 2006 ended up the lowest. The chart also shows 2016 Sea Ice Index (SII) from NOAA has been lagging behind by ~300k km2.
The table below shows this year compared to average and to 2006 for day 355.
The main deficit to average is in Barents and Greenland Seas on the Atlantic side, and in Bering and Chukchi Seas on Pacific side. The Canadian and Siberian sides are locked in ice, with sizable surpluses in Baffin and Hudson Bays, along with Okhotsk. The differences with 2006 are similar, though resulting in a surplus.
There is no need to panic over Arctic ice this year, or any year. It fluctuates according to its own ocean-ice-atmospheric processes and we can only watch and be surprised since we know so little about how it all works. Judah Cohen at AER thinks the much greater snowfall in October will make for a very cold winter. We shall see.