Rapid NH Snow Cover Oct. 2019

The image is an animation of IMS Snow and Ice charts for NH, starting October 1 to November 12, 2019 in weekly increments.  Note how the white area was sparce to begin and then grew from a weekly area of 9M km2 to 23.5M km2 through the month of October. As shown in the graph from Rutgers Global Snow Lab (GSL), the October 2019 monthly average of 22.3 M km2 is the fith highest in their record.

October 2019 was 4.7M km2 above the mean October area of 17.5 M km2. That ranks fifth out of 52 years; along with 2014 and 2016 making three of the highest snow cover years out of  the last six! (OMG.)  As Dr. Judah Cohen has observed, Siberian October coverage is a significant factor in forecasting coming winter conditions.
Dr. Cohen explains the mechanism in this diagram.

See Also Snowing and Freezing in the Arctic

 

Eurasian Arctic Flash Freezing in October

The image is an animation of MASIE ice charts over the last two weeks.  Upper right is Kara Sea icing, upper center is Laptev freezing over, and upper left is East Siberian filling with ice.  Chukchi on the left is still mostly water, and along with Beaufort Sea the main reason 2019 NH ice extent remains below average at this time.

MASIE daily results for October show 2019 recovering slowly early on, then adding ice faster the second half of the month.
Note that Arctic ice recovers strongly in October going on average (2007 through 2018 inclusive) from 5M km2 to 8.6 M km2.  2019 was as much as 1.3M km2 below average mid-October, before ending the month 654k km2 down..The graph shows 2018 and 2007 matching with 2019 converging as of October 31.  SII and MASIE show the same average for the month with SII about 170k km2 lower at the end.

The table for day 304 shows distribution of ice across the regions making up the Arctic ocean.

Region 2019304 Day 304 Average 2019-Ave. 2007304 2019-2007
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 7873831 8527820 -653989 8175072 -301241
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 700342 956166 -255824 1038126 -337784
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 169401 471301 -301900 242685 -73284
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 959948 949415 10532 835071 124876
 (4) Laptev_Sea 795682 879595 -83913 887789 -92107
 (5) Kara_Sea 568308 462083 106225 311960 256348
 (6) Barents_Sea 165838 79203 86635 52823 113015
 (7) Greenland_Sea 430074 403101 26973 443559 -13485
 (8)Baffin_Bay_Gulf_St._Lawrence 120175 277951 -157775 289374 -169198
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 727405 785367 -57963 817220 -89816
 (10) Hudson_Bay 3816 82445 -78629 48845 -45029
 (11) Central_Arctic 3222143 3169720 52423 3206345 15798

Presently 2019 ice extent according to MASIE is 654k km2 (8%) below the 12 year average and 301k km2 less than 2007. Most of the deficit to average is in the Pacific seas of Beaufort and Chukchi. along with Baffin and Hudson Bays refreezing slowly this year.  Other places are close to normal, with Central Arctic higher than average and much greater than 2007.

For context, note that the average maximum has been 15M, so on average the extent shrinks to 30% of the March high before growing back the following winter.

NWP Closed by Arctic Ice Oct. 20

Click on image to enlarge and to zoom in.

The animated Canadian ice chart shows complete closure of the Queen Maude region in recent days on both sides of Bellot Strait.  In the last 2 weeks ice extent in CAA (Canadian Arctic Archipelago doubled, now at 590k km2, 70% of its maximum in March. Below is some detail from a previous post.

The animation of Canadian ice charts shows the Northwest Passage filling with ice over the last two weeks, choking off the open water. In the top center, ice grows south in Peel Sound closing access from Resolute.  Meanwhile in the center left ice is pushing down M’Clintock channel and filling in Victoria Strait.  As of yesterday, the two ice masses joined to block the Bellot strait from Fort Ross to the east.

The graph below shows the ice recovery since day 260, the average daily minimum for the year.

The graph shows the tracks converging while remaining below the 12 year average.  Note the average annual minimum is 4.5M km2.  While 2019 was well below that on day 260, just two weeks later 2019 ice extent reached the 4.5M km2 level on day 274.

Background on Northwest Passage September 1, 2019

Background information is reprinted later on.  Above shows the last two weeks of shifting ice concentrations in the NWP choke point, Queen Maud region. Aug. 19 Prince Regent Inlet, top center was plugged, while Peel Sound, top left opened up and allowed passage.  In just a week or so, Prince Regent turned green (<3/10 covered) to blue.  At the same time thick ice dissipated in Franklin Strait, center left, opening the way SW. In just the last few days a tongue of thick ice has formed at the extreme top of Peel Sound, obstructing entrance from the north.

Note on the map right edge the reference to Foxe Basin, a body of open water south of Baffin Island.  The channel connecting into Gulf of Boothia is blocked most years, but was open in 2016, and passable now.  This is an alternate NWP route when Bellot Strait is also open.

This is today’s map of vessels in the NWP.  Cargo ships in green, tugs in cyan, Passenger ships in blue, yachts in purple.  Note that Peel Sound was the preferred route earlier, now ships are using Bellot strait.

Less Artic Ice This year

The CAA region (Canadian Arctic Archipelago) shown above has much less ice this year, along with most of the Arctic ocean.

As the graph shows, MASIE ice extent this year is presently as low as 2012, year of the Great Arctic Cyclone.  SII is showing about 300k km2 more ice, and matching MASIE 2018 and 2007.  All are below the 12 year average at Sept. 1 (day 244).

Background:  The Outlook in 2007

From Sea Ice in Canada’s Arctic: Implications for Cruise Tourism by Stewart et al. December 2007. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Although cruise travel to the Canadian Arctic has grown steadily since 1984, some commentators have suggested that growth in this sector of the tourism industry might accelerate, given the warming effects of climate change that are making formerly remote Canadian Arctic communities more accessible to cruise vessels. Using sea-ice charts from the Canadian Ice Service, we argue that Global Climate Model predictions of an ice-free Arctic as early as 2050-70 may lead to a false sense of optimism regarding the potential exploitation of all Canadian Arctic waters for tourism purposes. This is because climate warming is altering the character and distribution of sea ice, increasing the likelihood of hull-penetrating, high-latitude, multi-year ice that could cause major pitfalls for future navigation in some places in Arctic Canada. These changes may have negative implications for cruise tourism in the Canadian Arctic, and, in particular, for tourist transits through the Northwest Passage and High Arctic regions.

The most direct route through the Northwest Passage is via Viscount Melville Sound into the M’Clure Strait and around the coast of Banks Island. Unfortunately, this route is marred by difficult ice, particularly in the M’Clure Strait and in Viscount Melville Sound, as large quantities of multi-year ice enter this region from the Canadian Basin and through the Queen Elizabeth Islands.

As Figure 5 illustrates, difficult ice became particularly evident, hence problematic, as sea-ice concentration within these regions increased from 1968 to 2005; as well, significant increases in multi-year ice are present off the western coast of Banks Island as well. Howell and Yackel (2004) illustrated that ice conditions within this region during the 1969–2002 navigation seasons exhibited greater severity from 1969 to1979 than from 1991 to 2002. This variability likely is a reflection of the extreme light-ice season present in 1998(Atkinson et al., 2006), from which the region has since recovered. Cruise ships could use the Prince of Wales Strait to avoid the choke points on the western coast of Banks Island, but entry is difficult; indeed, Howell and Yackel (2004) showed virtually no change in ease of navigation from 1969 to 2002.

An alternative, longer route through the Northwest Passage passes through either Peel Sound or the Bellot Strait. The latter route potentially could avoid hazardous multi-year ice in Peel Sound, but its narrow passageway makes it unfeasible for use by larger vessels. Regardless of which route is selected, a choke point remains in the vicinity of the Victoria Strait (Fig. 5). This strait acts as a drain trap for multi-year ice that has entered the M’Clintock Channel region and gradually advances south-ward (Howell and Yackel, 2004; Howell et al., 2006). While Howell and Yackel (2004) showed slightly safer navigation conditions from 1991 to 2002 compared to 1969 to 1990, they attributed this improvement to the anomalous warm year of 1998 that removed most of the multi-year ice in the region. From 2000 to 2005, when conditions began to recover from the 1998 warming, atmospheric forcing was insufficient to break up the multi-year ice that entered the M’Clintock Channel. Instead the ice became mobile, flowing southward into the Victoria Strait as the surrounding first-year ice broke up earlier (Howell et al., 2006).

During the past 20 years, cruises gradually have become an important element of Canadian Arctic tourism, and currently there seems to be consensus about the cruise industry’s inevitable growth, especially in the vicinity of Baffin Bay. However, we have stressed the likelihood that sea-ice hazards will continue to exist and will present ongoing navigational challenges to tour operators, particularly those operating in the western regions of the Canadian Arctic.

Fast Forward to Summer of 2018:  Northwest Passage Proved Impassable

August 23, 2018 . At least 22 vessels are affected and several have turned back to Greenland.

Reprinted from post on September 3, 2018:  News today from the Northwest Passage blog that S/V CRYSTAL has given up after hanging around Fort Ross hoping for a storm or melting to break the ice barrier blocking their way west.
20180902-1025_crystal

As the vessel tracker shows, they have been forced to Plan C, which is returning to Greenland and accept that the NW Passage is closed this year. The latest ice chart gave them no hope for getting through.  Note yachts can sail through green (3/10), so the hope is for red to yellow to green.  But that did not happen last year.
20180902180000_wis38ct_0010210949

The image below shows the ice with which they were coping.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR5778.

More details at NW Passage blog 20180902 S/V CRYSTAL and S/V ATKA give up and retreat back to Greenland – Score ICE 3 vs YACHTS 0

 

Arctic Ice Locks Up NWP Oct. 16

The animation of Canadian ice charts shows the Northwest Passage filling with ice over the last two weeks, choking off the open water. In the top center, ice grows south in Peel Sound closing access from Resolute.  Meanwhile in the center left ice is pushing down M’Clintock channel and flling in Victoria Strait.  As of yesterday, the two ice masses joined to block the Bellot strait from Fort Ross to the east.

The graph below shows the ice recovery since day 260, the average daily minimum for the year.

The graph shows the tracks converging while remaining below the 12 year average.  Note the average annual minimum is 4.5M km2.  While 2019 was well below that on day 260, just two weeks later 2019 ice extent reached the 4.5M km2 level on day 274.

Background on Northwest Passage September 1, 2019

Background information is reprinted later on.  Above shows the last two weeks of shifting ice concentrations in the NWP choke point, Queen Maud region. Aug. 19 Prince Regent Inlet, top center was plugged, while Peel Sound, top left opened up and allowed passage.  In just a week or so, Prince Regent turned green (<3/10 covered) to blue.  At the same time thick ice dissipated in Franklin Strait, center left, opening the way SW. In just the last few days a tongue of thick ice has formed at the extreme top of Peel Sound, obstructing entrance from the north.

Note on the map right edge the reference to Foxe Basin, a body of open water south of Baffin Island.  The channel connecting into Gulf of Boothia is blocked most years, but was open in 2016, and passable now.  This is an alternate NWP route when Bellot Strait is also open.

This is today’s map of vessels in the NWP.  Cargo ships in green, tugs in cyan, Passenger ships in blue, yachts in purple.  Note that Peel Sound was the preferred route earlier, now ships are using Bellot strait.

Less Artic Ice This year

The CAA region (Canadian Arctic Archipelago) shown above has much less ice this year, along with most of the Arctic ocean.

As the graph shows, MASIE ice extent this year is presently as low as 2012, year of the Great Arctic Cyclone.  SII is showing about 300k km2 more ice, and matching MASIE 2018 and 2007.  All are below the 12 year average at Sept. 1 (day 244).

Background:  The Outlook in 2007

From Sea Ice in Canada’s Arctic: Implications for Cruise Tourism by Stewart et al. December 2007. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Although cruise travel to the Canadian Arctic has grown steadily since 1984, some commentators have suggested that growth in this sector of the tourism industry might accelerate, given the warming effects of climate change that are making formerly remote Canadian Arctic communities more accessible to cruise vessels. Using sea-ice charts from the Canadian Ice Service, we argue that Global Climate Model predictions of an ice-free Arctic as early as 2050-70 may lead to a false sense of optimism regarding the potential exploitation of all Canadian Arctic waters for tourism purposes. This is because climate warming is altering the character and distribution of sea ice, increasing the likelihood of hull-penetrating, high-latitude, multi-year ice that could cause major pitfalls for future navigation in some places in Arctic Canada. These changes may have negative implications for cruise tourism in the Canadian Arctic, and, in particular, for tourist transits through the Northwest Passage and High Arctic regions.

The most direct route through the Northwest Passage is via Viscount Melville Sound into the M’Clure Strait and around the coast of Banks Island. Unfortunately, this route is marred by difficult ice, particularly in the M’Clure Strait and in Viscount Melville Sound, as large quantities of multi-year ice enter this region from the Canadian Basin and through the Queen Elizabeth Islands.

As Figure 5 illustrates, difficult ice became particularly evident, hence problematic, as sea-ice concentration within these regions increased from 1968 to 2005; as well, significant increases in multi-year ice are present off the western coast of Banks Island as well. Howell and Yackel (2004) illustrated that ice conditions within this region during the 1969–2002 navigation seasons exhibited greater severity from 1969 to1979 than from 1991 to 2002. This variability likely is a reflection of the extreme light-ice season present in 1998(Atkinson et al., 2006), from which the region has since recovered. Cruise ships could use the Prince of Wales Strait to avoid the choke points on the western coast of Banks Island, but entry is difficult; indeed, Howell and Yackel (2004) showed virtually no change in ease of navigation from 1969 to 2002.

An alternative, longer route through the Northwest Passage passes through either Peel Sound or the Bellot Strait. The latter route potentially could avoid hazardous multi-year ice in Peel Sound, but its narrow passageway makes it unfeasible for use by larger vessels. Regardless of which route is selected, a choke point remains in the vicinity of the Victoria Strait (Fig. 5). This strait acts as a drain trap for multi-year ice that has entered the M’Clintock Channel region and gradually advances south-ward (Howell and Yackel, 2004; Howell et al., 2006). While Howell and Yackel (2004) showed slightly safer navigation conditions from 1991 to 2002 compared to 1969 to 1990, they attributed this improvement to the anomalous warm year of 1998 that removed most of the multi-year ice in the region. From 2000 to 2005, when conditions began to recover from the 1998 warming, atmospheric forcing was insufficient to break up the multi-year ice that entered the M’Clintock Channel. Instead the ice became mobile, flowing southward into the Victoria Strait as the surrounding first-year ice broke up earlier (Howell et al., 2006).

During the past 20 years, cruises gradually have become an important element of Canadian Arctic tourism, and currently there seems to be consensus about the cruise industry’s inevitable growth, especially in the vicinity of Baffin Bay. However, we have stressed the likelihood that sea-ice hazards will continue to exist and will present ongoing navigational challenges to tour operators, particularly those operating in the western regions of the Canadian Arctic.

Fast Forward to Summer of 2018:  Northwest Passage Proved Impassable

August 23, 2018 . At least 22 vessels are affected and several have turned back to Greenland.

Reprinted from post on September 3, 2018:  News today from the Northwest Passage blog that S/V CRYSTAL has given up after hanging around Fort Ross hoping for a storm or melting to break the ice barrier blocking their way west.
20180902-1025_crystal

As the vessel tracker shows, they have been forced to Plan C, which is returning to Greenland and accept that the NW Passage is closed this year. The latest ice chart gave them no hope for getting through.  Note yachts can sail through green (3/10), so the hope is for red to yellow to green.  But that did not happen last year.
20180902180000_wis38ct_0010210949

The image below shows the ice with which they were coping.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR5778.

More details at NW Passage blog 20180902 S/V CRYSTAL and S/V ATKA give up and retreat back to Greenland – Score ICE 3 vs YACHTS 0

 

NWP Icing Update 2019 Oct. 05

The animation shows ice rebuilding in the Northwest Passage over the last two weeks, doubling the extent and choking off the open water.  In the center, ice grows eastward in Barrow Strait closing access to Resolute, and shutting the northern entrance to Peel Sound.  Meanwhile in the center bottom ice is pushing down M’Clintock channel and flling in Victoria Strait.  There is still some open water for yachts to pass. but the direct routes are closing fast.

The current Canadian ice chart shows Peel Sound blocked at the top and Victoria Strait lower down.  The open passage goes around King William island. to reach Cambridge Bay in the west.  The graph below shows the ice recovery since day 260, the average daily minimum for the year.

Background on Northwest Passage September 1, 2019

Background information is reprinted later on.  Above shows the last two weeks of shifting ice concentrations in the NWP choke point, Queen Maud region. Aug. 19 Prince Regent Inlet, top center was plugged, while Peel Sound, top left opened up and allowed passage.  In just a week or so, Prince Regent turned green (<3/10 covered) to blue.  At the same time thick ice dissipated in Franklin Strait, center left, opening the way SW. In just the last few days a tongue of thick ice has formed at the extreme top of Peel Sound, obstructing entrance from the north.

Note on the map right edge the reference to Foxe Basin, a body of open water south of Baffin Island.  The channel connecting into Gulf of Boothia is blocked most years, but was open in 2016, and passable now.  This is an alternate NWP route when Bellot Strait is also open.

This is today’s map of vessels in the NWP.  Cargo ships in green, tugs in cyan, Passenger ships in blue, yachts in purple.  Note that Peel Sound was the preferred route earlier, now ships are using Bellot strait.

Less Artic Ice This year

The CAA region (Canadian Arctic Archipelago) shown above has much less ice this year, along with most of the Arctic ocean.

As the graph shows, MASIE ice extent this year is presently as low as 2012, year of the Great Arctic Cyclone.  SII is showing about 300k km2 more ice, and matching MASIE 2018 and 2007.  All are below the 12 year average at Sept. 1 (day 244).  The table below provides the numbers by regions.

Region 2019244 Day 244 Average 2019-Ave. 2018244 2019-2018
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 4113725 4857617 -743892 4514946 -401222
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 362877 531979 -169101 529700 -166823
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 139335 219474 -80139 178633 -39299
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 96512 356347 -259835 475647 -379135
 (4) Laptev_Sea 102556 172240 -69684 21366 81190
 (5) Kara_Sea 2479 40884 -38405 235 2244
 (6) Barents_Sea 23037 21055 1981 0 23037
 (7) Greenland_Sea 127514 171819 -44304 79706 47808
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 10485 27726 -17241 28385 -17900
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 238187 307540 -69353 364406 -126219
 (10) Hudson_Bay 0 21905 -21905 23268 -23268
 (11) Central_Arctic 3010000 2985788 24211 2813056 196944

The NH ice extent is 744k km2 or 15% below average.  Most of the deficit is in the first four regions, BCE and Laptev.  CAA is almost 70k km2 or 23% below its average.  Other regions have smaller deficits and Central Arctic is in slight surplus.

Background:  The Outlook in 2007

From Sea Ice in Canada’s Arctic: Implications for Cruise Tourism by Stewart et al. December 2007. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Although cruise travel to the Canadian Arctic has grown steadily since 1984, some commentators have suggested that growth in this sector of the tourism industry might accelerate, given the warming effects of climate change that are making formerly remote Canadian Arctic communities more accessible to cruise vessels. Using sea-ice charts from the Canadian Ice Service, we argue that Global Climate Model predictions of an ice-free Arctic as early as 2050-70 may lead to a false sense of optimism regarding the potential exploitation of all Canadian Arctic waters for tourism purposes. This is because climate warming is altering the character and distribution of sea ice, increasing the likelihood of hull-penetrating, high-latitude, multi-year ice that could cause major pitfalls for future navigation in some places in Arctic Canada. These changes may have negative implications for cruise tourism in the Canadian Arctic, and, in particular, for tourist transits through the Northwest Passage and High Arctic regions.

The most direct route through the Northwest Passage is via Viscount Melville Sound into the M’Clure Strait and around the coast of Banks Island. Unfortunately, this route is marred by difficult ice, particularly in the M’Clure Strait and in Viscount Melville Sound, as large quantities of multi-year ice enter this region from the Canadian Basin and through the Queen Elizabeth Islands.

As Figure 5 illustrates, difficult ice became particularly evident, hence problematic, as sea-ice concentration within these regions increased from 1968 to 2005; as well, significant increases in multi-year ice are present off the western coast of Banks Island as well. Howell and Yackel (2004) illustrated that ice conditions within this region during the 1969–2002 navigation seasons exhibited greater severity from 1969 to1979 than from 1991 to 2002. This variability likely is a reflection of the extreme light-ice season present in 1998(Atkinson et al., 2006), from which the region has since recovered. Cruise ships could use the Prince of Wales Strait to avoid the choke points on the western coast of Banks Island, but entry is difficult; indeed, Howell and Yackel (2004) showed virtually no change in ease of navigation from 1969 to 2002.

An alternative, longer route through the Northwest Passage passes through either Peel Sound or the Bellot Strait. The latter route potentially could avoid hazardous multi-year ice in Peel Sound, but its narrow passageway makes it unfeasible for use by larger vessels. Regardless of which route is selected, a choke point remains in the vicinity of the Victoria Strait (Fig. 5). This strait acts as a drain trap for multi-year ice that has entered the M’Clintock Channel region and gradually advances south-ward (Howell and Yackel, 2004; Howell et al., 2006). While Howell and Yackel (2004) showed slightly safer navigation conditions from 1991 to 2002 compared to 1969 to 1990, they attributed this improvement to the anomalous warm year of 1998 that removed most of the multi-year ice in the region. From 2000 to 2005, when conditions began to recover from the 1998 warming, atmospheric forcing was insufficient to break up the multi-year ice that entered the M’Clintock Channel. Instead the ice became mobile, flowing southward into the Victoria Strait as the surrounding first-year ice broke up earlier (Howell et al., 2006).

During the past 20 years, cruises gradually have become an important element of Canadian Arctic tourism, and currently there seems to be consensus about the cruise industry’s inevitable growth, especially in the vicinity of Baffin Bay. However, we have stressed the likelihood that sea-ice hazards will continue to exist and will present ongoing navigational challenges to tour operators, particularly those operating in the western regions of the Canadian Arctic.

Fast Forward to Summer of 2018:  Northwest Passage Proved Impassable

August 23, 2018 . At least 22 vessels are affected and several have turned back to Greenland.

Reprinted from post on September 3, 2018:  News today from the Northwest Passage blog that S/V CRYSTAL has given up after hanging around Fort Ross hoping for a storm or melting to break the ice barrier blocking their way west.
20180902-1025_crystal

As the vessel tracker shows, they have been forced to Plan C, which is returning to Greenland and accept that the NW Passage is closed this year. The latest ice chart gave them no hope for getting through.  Note yachts can sail through green (3/10), so the hope is for red to yellow to green.  But that did not happen last year.
20180902180000_wis38ct_0010210949

The image below shows the ice with which they were coping.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR5778.

More details at NW Passage blog 20180902 S/V CRYSTAL and S/V ATKA give up and retreat back to Greenland – Score ICE 3 vs YACHTS 0

 

2019 Arctic Ice Demise Deferred Again

The graph shows the annual minimum September monthly average sea ice extent in NH from 2007 through 2019 according to two different data sets:  Sea Ice Index (SII) from NOAA and Multisensor Analyzed Sea Ice Extent (MASIE) from NIC.  The chart begins with 2007 ending a decadal decline and beginning 12 years of fluctuations around a plateau.  SII and MASIE give quite similar results for September, with SII slightly higher early on, and also showing more ice this year.  The linear trendlines are flat for both indices with 2019 being similar to 2007.

MASIE daily results for September show 2019 early melting followed by an early stabilizing and refreezing.
Note that 2019 started the month about 800k km2 below the 12 year average (2007 through 2018 inclusive).  There was little additional loss of ice, a rise then a dip below 4 M km2, and a sharp rise ending the month.  Interestingly, 2019 matched the lowest year 2012 at the start, but ended the month well ahead of both 2012 and 2007.

The table for day 273 shows distribution of ice across the regions making up the Arctic ocean.

Region 2019273 Day 273 Average 2019-Ave. 2007273 2019-2007
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 4461290 4964938 -503649 4086883 374407
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 467540 535783 -68243 498743 -31203
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 114218 203936 -89717 51 114167
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 111249 334295 -223046 311 110938
 (4) Laptev_Sea 39689 171917 -132228 235245 -195556
 (5) Kara_Sea 18 27661 -27643 15367 -15349
 (6) Barents_Sea 6488 17303 -10815 4851 1637
 (7) Greenland_Sea 253624 236219 17405 353210 -99587
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 47659 53503 -5844 42247 5412
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 373697 388886 -15189 307135 66562
 (10) Hudson_Bay 0 4471 -4471 1936 -1936
 (11) Central_Arctic 3045966 2989860 56106 2626511 419455

Presently 2019 ice extent according to MASIE is 500k km2 (10%) below the 12 year average and 374k km2 more than 2007. Most of the deficit to average is in East Siberian and Laptev seas, along with the Pacific seas of Beaufort and Chukchi.  Other places are close to normal, with Central Arctic higher than average and much greater than 2007.

The Bigger Picture 

The annual Arctic ice extent minimum typically occurs on or about day 260 (mid September). Some take any year’s slightly lower minimum as proof that Arctic ice is dying, but the image below shows the second week in September over the last 11 years. The Arctic heart is beating clear and strong.

These are weekly ice charts from AARI in St. Petersburg.  The legend says the brown area is 7/10 to 10/10 ice concentration, while green areas are 1/10 to 6/10 ice covered. North American arctic areas are not analyzed in these images.  Note how the distribution of sea ice varies from year to year, and how small was the extent after the 2012 Great Arctic cyclone.

Over this decade, the Arctic ice minimum has not declined, but since 2007 looks like fluctuations around a plateau. By mid-September, all the peripheral seas have turned to water, and the residual ice shows up in a few places. The table below indicates where we can expect to find ice this September. Numbers are area units of Mkm2 (millions of square kilometers).

Day 260 12 year
Arctic Regions 2007 2010 2012 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 Average
Central Arctic Sea 2.67 3.16 2.64 2.98 2.93 2.92 3.07 2.91 2.97 2.93
BCE 0.50 1.08 0.31 1.38 0.89 0.52 0.84 1.16 0.46 0.89
LKB 0.29 0.24 0.02 0.19 0.05 0.28 0.26 0.02 0.11 0.16
Greenland & CAA 0.56 0.41 0.41 0.55 0.46 0.45 0.52 0.41 0.36 0.46
B&H Bays 0.03 0.03 0.02 0.02 0.10 0.03 0.07 0.05 0.01 0.04
NH Total 4.05 4.91 3.40 5.13 4.44 4.20 4.76 4.56 3.91 4.48

The table includes three early years of note along with the last 6 years compared to the 12 year average for five contiguous arctic regions. BCE (Beaufort, Chukchi and East Siberian) on the Asian side are quite variable as the largest source of ice other than the Central Arctic itself.   Greenland Sea and CAA (Canadian Arctic Archipelago) together hold almost 0.5M km2 of ice at annual minimum, fairly consistently.   LKB are the European seas of Laptev, Kara and Barents, a smaller source of ice, but a difference maker some years, as Laptev was in 2016.  Baffin and Hudson Bays are inconsequential as of day 260.

For context, note that the average maximum has been 15M, so on average the extent shrinks to 30% of the March high before growing back the following winter.

Early Arctic Ice Minimum for 2019

The image shows Arctic ice thinning at the edges in the last 12 days up until day 249, when it appears to stabilize.  This would be an earlier minimum than average but comparable to some other years, including 2018.

The melting season in August and September up to yesterday shows 2019 below average but appearing to consolidate in the last few days.

Presently 2019 ice extent according to MASIE is 547k km2 below the 12 year average, having been 807k km2 in deficit just 7 days ago. The pace in recent days has flattened in comparison to the average, and is now matching where 2007 bottomed out. Another surprise is SII showing much more (~300k km2) ice extent than MASIE, and an even earlier bottom on day 247 compared to 249 for MASIE.  Note also that MASIE 2018 daily minimum was day 252.

It is also the case that most all regions have registered their 2019 minimums prior to day 253.  And as discussed below, the marginal basins have little ice left to lose.

The Bigger Picture 

We are close to the annual Arctic ice extent minimum, which typically occurs on or about day 260 (mid September). Some take any year’s slightly lower minimum as proof that Arctic ice is dying, but the image below shows the second week in September over the last 11 years. The Arctic heart is beating clear and strong.

These are weekly ice charts from AARI in St. Petersburg.  The legend says the brown area is 7/10 to 10/10 ice concentration, while green areas are 1/10 to 6/10 ice covered. North American arctic areas are not analyzed in these images.  Note how the distribution of sea ice varies from year to year, and how small was the extent after the 2012 Great Arctic cyclone.

Over this decade, the Arctic ice minimum has not declined, but since 2007 looks like fluctuations around a plateau. By mid-September, all the peripheral seas have turned to water, and the residual ice shows up in a few places. The table below indicates where we can expect to find ice this September. Numbers are area units of Mkm2 (millions of square kilometers).

Day 260 12 yr
Arctic Regions 2007 2010 2012 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Average
Central Arctic Sea 2.67 3.16 2.64 2.98 2.93 2.92 3.07 2.91 2.93
BCE 0.5 1.08 0.31 1.38 0.89 0.52 0.84 1.16 0.89
LKB 0.29 0.24 0.02 0.19 0.05 0.28 0.26 0.02 0.16
Greenland & CAA 0.56 0.41 0.41 0.55 0.46 0.45 0.52 0.41 0.46
B&H Bays 0.03 0.03 0.02 0.02 0.1 0.03 0.07 0.05 0.03
NH Total 4.05 4.91 3.4 5.13 4.44 4.2 4.76 4.56 4.48

The table includes three early years of note along with the last 5 years compared to the 12 year average for five contiguous arctic regions. BCE (Beaufort, Chukchi and East Siberian) on the Asian side are quite variable as the largest source of ice other than the Central Arctic itself.   Greenland Sea and CAA (Canadian Arctic Archipelago) together hold almost 0.5M km2 of ice at annual minimum, fairly consistently.   LKB are the European seas of Laptev, Kara and Barents, a smaller source of ice, but a difference maker some years, as Laptev was in 2016.  Baffin and Hudson Bays are inconsequential as of day 260.

For context, note that the average maximum has been 15M, so on average the extent shrinks to 30% of the March high before growing back the following winter.

Arctic Ice and NWP Update 2019 09 01

Update on Northwest Passage September 1, 2019

Background information is reprinted later on.  Above shows the last two weeks of shifting ice concentrations in the NWP choke point, Queen Maud region. Aug. 19 Prince Regent Inlet, top center was plugged, while Peel Sound, top left opened up and allowed passage.  In just a week or so, Prince Regent turned green (<3/10 covered) to blue.  At the same time thick ice dissipated in Franklin Strait, center left, opening the way SW. In just the last few days a tongue of thick ice has formed at the extreme top of Peel Sound, obstructing entrance from the north.

Note on the map right edge the reference to Foxe Basin, a body of open water south of Baffin Island.  The channel connecting into Gulf of Boothia is blocked most years, but was open in 2016, and passable now.  This is an alternate NWP route when Bellot Strait is also open.

This is today’s map of vessels in the NWP.  Cargo ships in green, tugs in cyan, Passenger ships in blue, yachts in purple.  Note that Peel Sound was the preferred route earlier, now ships are using Bellot strait.

Less Artic Ice This year

The CAA region (Canadian Arctic Archipelago) shown above has much less ice this year, along with most of the Arctic ocean.

As the graph shows, MASIE ice extent this year is presently as low as 2012, year of the Great Arctic Cyclone.  SII is showing about 300k km2 more ice, and matching MASIE 2018 and 2007.  All are below the 12 year average at Sept. 1 (day 244).  The table below provides the numbers by regions.

Region 2019244 Day 244 Average 2019-Ave. 2018244 2019-2018
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 4113725 4857617 -743892 4514946 -401222
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 362877 531979 -169101 529700 -166823
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 139335 219474 -80139 178633 -39299
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 96512 356347 -259835 475647 -379135
 (4) Laptev_Sea 102556 172240 -69684 21366 81190
 (5) Kara_Sea 2479 40884 -38405 235 2244
 (6) Barents_Sea 23037 21055 1981 0 23037
 (7) Greenland_Sea 127514 171819 -44304 79706 47808
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 10485 27726 -17241 28385 -17900
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 238187 307540 -69353 364406 -126219
 (10) Hudson_Bay 0 21905 -21905 23268 -23268
 (11) Central_Arctic 3010000 2985788 24211 2813056 196944

The NH ice extent is 744k km2 or 15% below average.  Most of the deficit is in the first four regions, BCE and Laptev.  CAA is almost 70k km2 or 23% below its average.  Other regions have smaller deficits and Central Arctic is in slight surplus.

Background:  The Outlook in 2007

From Sea Ice in Canada’s Arctic: Implications for Cruise Tourism by Stewart et al. December 2007. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Although cruise travel to the Canadian Arctic has grown steadily since 1984, some commentators have suggested that growth in this sector of the tourism industry might accelerate, given the warming effects of climate change that are making formerly remote Canadian Arctic communities more accessible to cruise vessels. Using sea-ice charts from the Canadian Ice Service, we argue that Global Climate Model predictions of an ice-free Arctic as early as 2050-70 may lead to a false sense of optimism regarding the potential exploitation of all Canadian Arctic waters for tourism purposes. This is because climate warming is altering the character and distribution of sea ice, increasing the likelihood of hull-penetrating, high-latitude, multi-year ice that could cause major pitfalls for future navigation in some places in Arctic Canada. These changes may have negative implications for cruise tourism in the Canadian Arctic, and, in particular, for tourist transits through the Northwest Passage and High Arctic regions.

The most direct route through the Northwest Passage is via Viscount Melville Sound into the M’Clure Strait and around the coast of Banks Island. Unfortunately, this route is marred by difficult ice, particularly in the M’Clure Strait and in Viscount Melville Sound, as large quantities of multi-year ice enter this region from the Canadian Basin and through the Queen Elizabeth Islands.

As Figure 5 illustrates, difficult ice became particularly evident, hence problematic, as sea-ice concentration within these regions increased from 1968 to 2005; as well, significant increases in multi-year ice are present off the western coast of Banks Island as well. Howell and Yackel (2004) illustrated that ice conditions within this region during the 1969–2002 navigation seasons exhibited greater severity from 1969 to1979 than from 1991 to 2002. This variability likely is a reflection of the extreme light-ice season present in 1998(Atkinson et al., 2006), from which the region has since recovered. Cruise ships could use the Prince of Wales Strait to avoid the choke points on the western coast of Banks Island, but entry is difficult; indeed, Howell and Yackel (2004) showed virtually no change in ease of navigation from 1969 to 2002.

An alternative, longer route through the Northwest Passage passes through either Peel Sound or the Bellot Strait. The latter route potentially could avoid hazardous multi-year ice in Peel Sound, but its narrow passageway makes it unfeasible for use by larger vessels. Regardless of which route is selected, a choke point remains in the vicinity of the Victoria Strait (Fig. 5). This strait acts as a drain trap for multi-year ice that has entered the M’Clintock Channel region and gradually advances south-ward (Howell and Yackel, 2004; Howell et al., 2006). While Howell and Yackel (2004) showed slightly safer navigation conditions from 1991 to 2002 compared to 1969 to 1990, they attributed this improvement to the anomalous warm year of 1998 that removed most of the multi-year ice in the region. From 2000 to 2005, when conditions began to recover from the 1998 warming, atmospheric forcing was insufficient to break up the multi-year ice that entered the M’Clintock Channel. Instead the ice became mobile, flowing southward into the Victoria Strait as the surrounding first-year ice broke up earlier (Howell et al., 2006).

During the past 20 years, cruises gradually have become an important element of Canadian Arctic tourism, and currently there seems to be consensus about the cruise industry’s inevitable growth, especially in the vicinity of Baffin Bay. However, we have stressed the likelihood that sea-ice hazards will continue to exist and will present ongoing navigational challenges to tour operators, particularly those operating in the western regions of the Canadian Arctic.

Fast Forward to Summer of 2018:  Northwest Passage Proved Impassable

August 23, 2018 . At least 22 vessels are affected and several have turned back to Greenland.

Reprinted from post on September 3, 2018:  News today from the Northwest Passage blog that S/V CRYSTAL has given up after hanging around Fort Ross hoping for a storm or melting to break the ice barrier blocking their way west.
20180902-1025_crystal

As the vessel tracker shows, they have been forced to Plan C, which is returning to Greenland and accept that the NW Passage is closed this year. The latest ice chart gave them no hope for getting through.  Note yachts can sail through green (3/10), so the hope is for red to yellow to green.  But that did not happen last year.
20180902180000_wis38ct_0010210949

The image below shows the ice with which they were coping.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR5778.

More details at NW Passage blog 20180902 S/V CRYSTAL and S/V ATKA give up and retreat back to Greenland – Score ICE 3 vs YACHTS 0

Current Situation in Canadian Arctic Archipelago

The current ice map of Queen Maude region shows the difference between 2019 and last year.

Remembering that yachts need at most 1-3/10 ice conditions (light green), it is showing Peel Sound on the left side is open now, but was the obstruction last year.  Not shown but also important is open water in Barrow Strait allowing access to Peel Sound from the north.  Conversely, on the top right Prince Regent Inlet is plugged at the top and impassable for now, and perhaps for the year.

As reported at the Northwest Passage Blogspot, yachts are taking the Peel Sound route this year, rather than using Prince Regent Inlet and Bellot Strait, due to ice conditions. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Peel Sound, With Trepidation
by Randall
August 16, 2019
Days at Sea: 262
Over the last few days, charts have shown a significant reduction in ice concentrations in Peel, but there is still ice, lots of ice. One hundred miles into the Sound from the N, there is a band of 4-6/10ths ice that is sixty-five miles long and covers both the eastern and western shores. Another one hundred miles below that is a large band of 1-3/10ths ice. Below that there is open water, but it is threatened by the heavy ice feeding in from M’Clintock Channel.

Add to this an imminent change in the weather. Long range forecasts are calling for a switch from these long-running E winds to SW winds and then strong southerlies that could scramble the current ice configuration.
Add to this a paucity of anchorages in Peel. Two of the best on the W coast are icebound. The next, False Strait, is just above Bellot Strait and 165 miles from the opening.

In the evening I reach out to the ice guide, Victor Wejer, for a consult on anchorages. Mo needs a place to hide if things go badly. I show him the areas I’ve chosen.

“This is a subject I would like to avoid,” he replies. “It is not written in stone that you must take the entirety of Peel in one go, but it is the usual way. Read the Canadian Sailing Directions. The height of Somerset Island does weird things to the wind; it can go from calm to gale in an instant. Most of what look like anchorages on the chart are just not safe.”

“As to ice,” he continues, “this is also difficult. Peel is narrow and fed from M’Clintock. Most sailboat crews fight tooth and ice pole to get through. Consider that Matt Rutherford chose Prince Regent. But for you there may not be an option. Regent will not be clear for a long time; maybe not at all this year.”

By now four boats are through Peel, below Bellot Strait and on their way to Gjoa Haven. Yellow-hulled Breskell is one of them, but it has taken her four days to transit 200 miles, and I can tell from the way Olivier writes his encouraging emails that he has his doubts about doing it solo.

MO IS THROUGH THE ICE!
by Randall
August 19, 2019
1845 local
70 32S 97 27W
Larsen Sound
The Arctic

Just a quick note to report that Mo is through the ice and sailing fast on a N wind for Cambridge Bay, 235 miles SW.

I have been pushing to get to Alioth’s position for two days. She has a busted gear box and can’t make more than three knots under power. She has been hove to at the head of our last major ice plug waiting for an escort as she’d have to sail through, a tricky business.

We’ve all been sweating bullets over this last 30 miles of ice, and for four days I’ve been underway and hand steering for 18 to 20 hours a day through 3 – 5/10ths ice to get here. Only a few hours sleep a night this last week.

As it turns out, today was a piece of cake. We saw huge ice floes the size of city blocks but with wide lanes in between. Alioth and another boat, Mandregore, sailed downwind without trouble with Mo bringing up the rear under power just in case.

Northwest Passage Update 2019 08 28

Update on Northwest Passage Traffic August 29, 2019

Background information is reprinted later on.  Above shows the last 10 days of shifting ice concentrations in the NWP choke point, Queen Maud region. Aug. 19 Prince Regent Inlet, top center was plugged, while Peel Sound, top left opened up and allowed passage.  In just a week or so, Prince Regent turned green (<1/3 covered) to blue.  At the same time thick ice dissipated in Franklin Strait, center left, opening the way SW.

Note on the map right edge the reference to Foxe Basin, a body of open water south of Baffin Island.  The channel connecting into Gulf of Boothia is blocked most years, but was open in 2016, and passable now.  This is an alternate NWP route when Bellot Strait is also open.

This is today’s map of vessels in the NWP.  Cargo ships in yellow, Passenger ships in green, yachts in purple.  Note that Peel Sound is the preferred route this year.

Background:  The Outlook in 2007

From Sea Ice in Canada’s Arctic: Implications for Cruise Tourism by Stewart et al. December 2007. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Although cruise travel to the Canadian Arctic has grown steadily since 1984, some commentators have suggested that growth in this sector of the tourism industry might accelerate, given the warming effects of climate change that are making formerly remote Canadian Arctic communities more accessible to cruise vessels. Using sea-ice charts from the Canadian Ice Service, we argue that Global Climate Model predictions of an ice-free Arctic as early as 2050-70 may lead to a false sense of optimism regarding the potential exploitation of all Canadian Arctic waters for tourism purposes. This is because climate warming is altering the character and distribution of sea ice, increasing the likelihood of hull-penetrating, high-latitude, multi-year ice that could cause major pitfalls for future navigation in some places in Arctic Canada. These changes may have negative implications for cruise tourism in the Canadian Arctic, and, in particular, for tourist transits through the Northwest Passage and High Arctic regions.

The most direct route through the Northwest Passage is via Viscount Melville Sound into the M’Clure Strait and around the coast of Banks Island. Unfortunately, this route is marred by difficult ice, particularly in the M’Clure Strait and in Viscount Melville Sound, as large quantities of multi-year ice enter this region from the Canadian Basin and through the Queen Elizabeth Islands.

As Figure 5 illustrates, difficult ice became particularly evident, hence problematic, as sea-ice concentration within these regions increased from 1968 to 2005; as well, significant increases in multi-year ice are present off the western coast of Banks Island as well. Howell and Yackel (2004) illustrated that ice conditions within this region during the 1969–2002 navigation seasons exhibited greater severity from 1969 to1979 than from 1991 to 2002. This variability likely is a reflection of the extreme light-ice season present in 1998(Atkinson et al., 2006), from which the region has since recovered. Cruise ships could use the Prince of Wales Strait to avoid the choke points on the western coast of Banks Island, but entry is difficult; indeed, Howell and Yackel (2004) showed virtually no change in ease of navigation from 1969 to 2002.

An alternative, longer route through the Northwest Passage passes through either Peel Sound or the Bellot Strait. The latter route potentially could avoid hazardous multi-year ice in Peel Sound, but its narrow passageway makes it unfeasible for use by larger vessels. Regardless of which route is selected, a choke point remains in the vicinity of the Victoria Strait (Fig. 5). This strait acts as a drain trap for multi-year ice that has entered the M’Clintock Channel region and gradually advances south-ward (Howell and Yackel, 2004; Howell et al., 2006). While Howell and Yackel (2004) showed slightly safer navigation conditions from 1991 to 2002 compared to 1969 to 1990, they attributed this improvement to the anomalous warm year of 1998 that removed most of the multi-year ice in the region. From 2000 to 2005, when conditions began to recover from the 1998 warming, atmospheric forcing was insufficient to break up the multi-year ice that entered the M’Clintock Channel. Instead the ice became mobile, flowing southward into the Victoria Strait as the surrounding first-year ice broke up earlier (Howell et al., 2006).

During the past 20 years, cruises gradually have become an important element of Canadian Arctic tourism, and currently there seems to be consensus about the cruise industry’s inevitable growth, especially in the vicinity of Baffin Bay. However, we have stressed the likelihood that sea-ice hazards will continue to exist and will present ongoing navigational challenges to tour operators, particularly those operating in the western regions of the Canadian Arctic.

Fast Forward to Summer of 2018:  Northwest Passage Proved Impassable

August 23, 2018 . At least 22 vessels are affected and several have turned back to Greenland.

Reprinted from post on September 3, 2018:  News today from the Northwest Passage blog that S/V CRYSTAL has given up after hanging around Fort Ross hoping for a storm or melting to break the ice barrier blocking their way west.
20180902-1025_crystal

As the vessel tracker shows, they have been forced to Plan C, which is returning to Greenland and accept that the NW Passage is closed this year. The latest ice chart gave them no hope for getting through.  Note yachts can sail through green (3/10), so the hope is for red to yellow to green.  But that did not happen last year.
20180902180000_wis38ct_0010210949

The image below shows the ice with which they were coping.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR5778.

More details at NW Passage blog 20180902 S/V CRYSTAL and S/V ATKA give up and retreat back to Greenland – Score ICE 3 vs YACHTS 0

Current Situation in Canadian Arctic Archipelago

The current ice map of Queen Maude region shows the difference between 2019 and last year.

Remembering that yachts need at most 1-3/10 ice conditions (light green), it is showing Peel Sound on the left side is open now, but was the obstruction last year.  Not shown but also important is open water in Barrow Strait allowing access to Peel Sound from the north.  Conversely, on the top right Prince Regent Inlet is plugged at the top and impassable for now, and perhaps for the year.

As reported at the Northwest Passage Blogspot, yachts are taking the Peel Sound route this year, rather than using Prince Regent Inlet and Bellot Strait, due to ice conditions. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Peel Sound, With Trepidation
by Randall
August 16, 2019
Days at Sea: 262
Over the last few days, charts have shown a significant reduction in ice concentrations in Peel, but there is still ice, lots of ice. One hundred miles into the Sound from the N, there is a band of 4-6/10ths ice that is sixty-five miles long and covers both the eastern and western shores. Another one hundred miles below that is a large band of 1-3/10ths ice. Below that there is open water, but it is threatened by the heavy ice feeding in from M’Clintock Channel.

Add to this an imminent change in the weather. Long range forecasts are calling for a switch from these long-running E winds to SW winds and then strong southerlies that could scramble the current ice configuration.
Add to this a paucity of anchorages in Peel. Two of the best on the W coast are icebound. The next, False Strait, is just above Bellot Strait and 165 miles from the opening.

In the evening I reach out to the ice guide, Victor Wejer, for a consult on anchorages. Mo needs a place to hide if things go badly. I show him the areas I’ve chosen.

“This is a subject I would like to avoid,” he replies. “It is not written in stone that you must take the entirety of Peel in one go, but it is the usual way. Read the Canadian Sailing Directions. The height of Somerset Island does weird things to the wind; it can go from calm to gale in an instant. Most of what look like anchorages on the chart are just not safe.”

“As to ice,” he continues, “this is also difficult. Peel is narrow and fed from M’Clintock. Most sailboat crews fight tooth and ice pole to get through. Consider that Matt Rutherford chose Prince Regent. But for you there may not be an option. Regent will not be clear for a long time; maybe not at all this year.”

By now four boats are through Peel, below Bellot Strait and on their way to Gjoa Haven. Yellow-hulled Breskell is one of them, but it has taken her four days to transit 200 miles, and I can tell from the way Olivier writes his encouraging emails that he has his doubts about doing it solo.

MO IS THROUGH THE ICE!
by Randall
August 19, 2019
1845 local
70 32S 97 27W
Larsen Sound
The Arctic

Just a quick note to report that Mo is through the ice and sailing fast on a N wind for Cambridge Bay, 235 miles SW.

I have been pushing to get to Alioth’s position for two days. She has a busted gear box and can’t make more than three knots under power. She has been hove to at the head of our last major ice plug waiting for an escort as she’d have to sail through, a tricky business.

We’ve all been sweating bullets over this last 30 miles of ice, and for four days I’ve been underway and hand steering for 18 to 20 hours a day through 3 – 5/10ths ice to get here. Only a few hours sleep a night this last week.

As it turns out, today was a piece of cake. We saw huge ice floes the size of city blocks but with wide lanes in between. Alioth and another boat, Mandregore, sailed downwind without trouble with Mo bringing up the rear under power just in case.

Outlook: Northwest Passage Less Icy in 2019

Background:  The Outlook in 2007

From Sea Ice in Canada’s Arctic: Implications for Cruise Tourism by Stewart et al. December 2007. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Although cruise travel to the Canadian Arctic has grown steadily since 1984, some commentators have suggested that growth in this sector of the tourism industry might accelerate, given the warming effects of climate change that are making formerly remote Canadian Arctic communities more accessible to cruise vessels. Using sea-ice charts from the Canadian Ice Service, we argue that Global Climate Model predictions of an ice-free Arctic as early as 2050-70 may lead to a false sense of optimism regarding the potential exploitation of all Canadian Arctic waters for tourism purposes. This is because climate warming is altering the character and distribution of sea ice, increasing the likelihood of hull-penetrating, high-latitude, multi-year ice that could cause major pitfalls for future navigation in some places in Arctic Canada. These changes may have negative implications for cruise tourism in the Canadian Arctic, and, in particular, for tourist transits through the Northwest Passage and High Arctic regions.

The most direct route through the Northwest Passage is via Viscount Melville Sound into the M’Clure Strait and around the coast of Banks Island. Unfortunately, this route is marred by difficult ice, particularly in the M’Clure Strait and in Viscount Melville Sound, as large quantities of multi-year ice enter this region from the Canadian Basin and through the Queen Elizabeth Islands.

As Figure 5 illustrates, difficult ice became particularly evident, hence problematic, as sea-ice concentration within these regions increased from 1968 to 2005; as well, significant increases in multi-year ice are present off the western coast of Banks Island as well. Howell and Yackel (2004) illustrated that ice conditions within this region during the 1969–2002 navigation seasons exhibited greater severity from 1969 to1979 than from 1991 to 2002. This variability likely is a reflection of the extreme light-ice season present in 1998(Atkinson et al., 2006), from which the region has since recovered. Cruise ships could use the Prince of Wales Strait to avoid the choke points on the western coast of Banks Island, but entry is difficult; indeed, Howell and Yackel (2004) showed virtually no change in ease of navigation from 1969 to 2002.

An alternative, longer route through the Northwest Passage passes through either Peel Sound or the Bellot Strait. The latter route potentially could avoid hazardous multi-year ice in Peel Sound, but its narrow passageway makes it unfeasible for use by larger vessels. Regardless of which route is selected, a choke point remains in the vicinity of the Victoria Strait (Fig. 5). This strait acts as a drain trap for multi-year ice that has entered the M’Clintock Channel region and gradually advances south-ward (Howell and Yackel, 2004; Howell et al., 2006). While Howell and Yackel (2004) showed slightly safer navigation conditions from 1991 to 2002 compared to 1969 to 1990, they attributed this improvement to the anomalous warm year of 1998 that removed most of the multi-year ice in the region. From 2000 to 2005, when conditions began to recover from the 1998 warming, atmospheric forcing was insufficient to break up the multi-year ice that entered the M’Clintock Channel. Instead the ice became mobile, flowing southward into the Victoria Strait as the surrounding first-year ice broke up earlier (Howell et al., 2006).

During the past 20 years, cruises gradually have become an important element of Canadian Arctic tourism, and currently there seems to be consensus about the cruise industry’s inevitable growth, especially in the vicinity of Baffin Bay. However, we have stressed the likelihood that sea-ice hazards will continue to exist and will present ongoing navigational challenges to tour operators, particularly those operating in the western regions of the Canadian Arctic.

Fast Forward to Summer of 2018:  Northwest Passage Proved Impassable

August 23, 2018 . At least 22 vessels are affected and several have turned back to Greenland.

Reprinted from post on September 3, 2018:  News today from the Northwest Passage blog that S/V CRYSTAL has given up after hanging around Fort Ross hoping for a storm or melting to break the ice barrier blocking their way west.
20180902-1025_crystal

As the vessel tracker shows, they have been forced to Plan C, which is returning to Greenland and accept that the NW Passage is closed this year. The latest ice chart gave them no hope for getting through.  Note yachts can sail through green (3/10), so the hope is for red to yellow to green.  But that did not happen last year.
20180902180000_wis38ct_0010210949

The image below shows the ice with which they were coping.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR5778.

More details at NW Passage blog 20180902 S/V CRYSTAL and S/V ATKA give up and retreat back to Greenland – Score ICE 3 vs YACHTS 0

Current Situation in Canadian Arctic Archipelago

The current ice map of Queen Maude region shows the difference between 2019 and last year.

Remembering that yachts need at most 1-3/10 ice conditions (light green), it is showing Peel Sound on the left side is open now, but was the obstruction last year.  Not shown but also important is open water in Barrow Strait allowing access to Peel Sound from the north.  Conversely, on the top right Prince Regent Inlet is plugged at the top and impassable for now, and perhaps for the year.

As reported at the Northwest Passage Blogspot, yachts are taking the Peel Sound route this year, rather than using Prince Regent Inlet and Bellot Strait, due to ice conditions. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Peel Sound, With Trepidation
by Randall
August 16, 2019
Days at Sea: 262
Over the last few days, charts have shown a significant reduction in ice concentrations in Peel, but there is still ice, lots of ice. One hundred miles into the Sound from the N, there is a band of 4-6/10ths ice that is sixty-five miles long and covers both the eastern and western shores. Another one hundred miles below that is a large band of 1-3/10ths ice. Below that there is open water, but it is threatened by the heavy ice feeding in from M’Clintock Channel.

Add to this an imminent change in the weather. Long range forecasts are calling for a switch from these long-running E winds to SW winds and then strong southerlies that could scramble the current ice configuration.
Add to this a paucity of anchorages in Peel. Two of the best on the W coast are icebound. The next, False Strait, is just above Bellot Strait and 165 miles from the opening.

In the evening I reach out to the ice guide, Victor Wejer, for a consult on anchorages. Mo needs a place to hide if things go badly. I show him the areas I’ve chosen.

“This is a subject I would like to avoid,” he replies. “It is not written in stone that you must take the entirety of Peel in one go, but it is the usual way. Read the Canadian Sailing Directions. The height of Somerset Island does weird things to the wind; it can go from calm to gale in an instant. Most of what look like anchorages on the chart are just not safe.”

“As to ice,” he continues, “this is also difficult. Peel is narrow and fed from M’Clintock. Most sailboat crews fight tooth and ice pole to get through. Consider that Matt Rutherford chose Prince Regent. But for you there may not be an option. Regent will not be clear for a long time; maybe not at all this year.”

By now four boats are through Peel, below Bellot Strait and on their way to Gjoa Haven. Yellow-hulled Breskell is one of them, but it has taken her four days to transit 200 miles, and I can tell from the way Olivier writes his encouraging emails that he has his doubts about doing it solo.

MO IS THROUGH THE ICE!
by Randall
August 19, 2019
1845 local
70 32S 97 27W
Larsen Sound
The Arctic

Just a quick note to report that Mo is through the ice and sailing fast on a N wind for Cambridge Bay, 235 miles SW.

I have been pushing to get to Alioth’s position for two days. She has a busted gear box and can’t make more than three knots under power. She has been hove to at the head of our last major ice plug waiting for an escort as she’d have to sail through, a tricky business.

We’ve all been sweating bullets over this last 30 miles of ice, and for four days I’ve been underway and hand steering for 18 to 20 hours a day through 3 – 5/10ths ice to get here. Only a few hours sleep a night this last week.

As it turns out, today was a piece of cake. We saw huge ice floes the size of city blocks but with wide lanes in between. Alioth and another boat, Mandregore, sailed downwind without trouble with Mo bringing up the rear under power just in case.