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.

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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.

Today’s Arctic Ice Precedented 150 years Ago

This map from the Canadian Ice Service shows sea ice conditions in the western part of High Arctic islands on Sept. 8, 2018. The dark blue shows a low concentration (less than 10 per cent) of ice, while white shows a high concentration (100 per cent). At this time of the year, the Arctic ice cover is the highest it has been since 2014, the National Snow and Ice Data Center said Sept. 5.

The usual alarms are sounding again this summer to celebrate the annual melting of Arctic Sea Ice prior to refreezing again. Science Daily claims:

A new study provides a 110-year record of the total volume of Arctic sea ice, using early US ships’ voyages to verify the earlier part of the record. The current sea ice volume and rate of loss are unprecedented in the 110-year record.

Had they been willing to go a little further back in time they could have confirmed what others previously concluded from the same sources.

Researchers found that ice conditions in the 19th century were remarkably similar to today’s, observations falling within normal variability. The study is Accounts from 19th-century Canadian Arctic Explorers’ Logs Reflect Present Climate Conditions (here) by James E. Overland, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory/NOAA, Seattle,Wash., and Kevin Wood, Arctic Research Office/NOAA, Silver Spring, Md.   H/t GWPF Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Overview

This article demonstrates the use of historical instrument and descriptive records to assess the hypothesis that environmental conditions observed by 19th-century explorers in the Canadian archipelago were consistent with a Little Ice Age as evident in proxy records.  We find little evidence for extreme cold conditions.

It is clear that the first-hand observations of 19th-century explorers are not consistent with the hypothesized severe conditions of a multi-decadal Little Ice Age. Explorers encountered both warm and cool seasons, and generally typical ice conditions, in comparison to 20th-century norms.

Analysis

There were more than seventy expeditions or scientific enterprises of various types dispatched to the Canadian Arctic in the period between 1818 and 1910. From this number, we analyzed 44 original scientific reports and related narratives; many from expeditions spanning several years. The majority of the data come from large naval expeditions that wintered over in the Arctic and had the capacity to support an intensive scientific effort. A table listing the expeditions and data types is located at http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/arctic/history.  The data cover about one-third of the possible number of years depending on data type, and every decade is represented.

Our analysis focuses on four indicators of climatic change: summer sea ice extent, annual sea ice thickness, monthly mean temperature, and the onset of melt and freeze as estimated from daily mean temperature. Historical observations in these four categories were compared with modern reference data; the reference period varied, depending on data availability.  Both sea ice extent and the onset of melt and freeze were compared to the 30- year reference period 1971–2000; monthly means are compared to the 50-year period 1951–2000. Modern sea ice thickness records are less continuous, and some terminate in the 1980s; the reference period is therefore based on 19 to 26 years of homogeneous record.

arctic-explorers-fig1

Fig.1.

(a) Proxy record of standardized summer air temperature variation derived from ice cores taken on Devon Island. This proxy record suggests that a significantly colder climate prevailed in the 19th century. Shading indicates temperatures one standard deviation warmer or colder than average for the reference period 1901–1960 [Overpeck,1998].

(b) Historical monthly mean temperature observations compared to the 20th-century reference period 1951–2000. Sixty-three percent of 343 monthly mean temperatures recorded on 19th-century expeditions between 1819 and 1854 fall within one standard deviation of the reference mean at nearby stations (reference data from Meteorological Service of Canada,2002; and National Climatic Data Center,2002).

(c) Onset of melt observed by expeditions between 1820 and 1906 expressed as departures from the mean for the reference period 1971–2000. The period of melt transition observed by 19th century explorers is not inconsistent with modern values.

(d) Onset of freeze observed between 1819 and 1905 compared to the reference period 1971–2000. The onset of freeze transition is frequently consistent with modern values,but in some cases occurred earlier than usual. The incidence of an early onset of freeze represents the largest departure from present conditions evident in the historical records examined in this study. Melt and freeze transition dates for the reference period 1971–2000 were calculated from temperature data extracted from the Global Daily Climatology Network data base (National Climate Data Center, 2002).

arctic-explorers-fig2

Fig.2. The ship tracks and winter-over locations of Arctic discovery expeditions from 1818 to 1859 are surprisingly consistent with present sea ice climatology (contours represented by shades of blue). The climatology shown reflects percent frequency of sea ice presence on 10 September which is the usual date of annual ice minimum for the reference period 1971–2000 (Canadian Ice Service,2002). On a number of occasions,expeditions came within 150 km of completing the Northwest Passage, but even in years with unfavorable ice conditions, most ships were still able to reach comparatively advanced positions within the Canadian archipelago. By 1859, all possible routes comprising the Northwest Passage had been discovered.

Summary

As stated here before, Arctic ice is part of a self-oscillating system with extents expanding and retreating according to processes internal to the ocean-ice-atmosphere components. We don’t know exactly why 19th century ice extent was less than previously or less than the 1970s, but we can be sure it wasn’t due to fossil fuel emissions.

arctic-explorers-fig3rev

Explorers encountered both favorable and unfavorable ice conditions. This drawing from the vicinity of Beechey Island illustrates the situation of the H.M.S.Resolute and the steam-tender Pioneer on 5 September 1850 [from Facsimile of the Illustrated Arctic News,courtesy of Elmer E.Rasmuson Library,Univ.of AlaskaFairbanks].

Canadian Arctic Last 3 Weeks

The image shows that most of the Arctic ice lost in the last 3 weeks disappeared from the two Canadian Bays: Hudson and Baffin.  Hudson lost 400k km2 from 535k km2 down to 123k km2.  Baffin lost 300k km2 from 375k km2 down to 67k km2.

The melting season in July up to yesterday shows 2019 moving toward the 12 year average.

Presently 2019 ice extent according to MASIE is about 500k km2 below the 12 year average, having been 800k km2 in deficit just 5 days ago. The pace in recent days has flattened in comparison to the average, and is now matching 2007.  SII started to diverge about the same time and is now 400k km2 lower than MASIE.

The Bigger Picture (from Previous Post)

We are about 46 days away from 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 third week in July  over the last 11 years. The Arctic heart is beating clear and strong.

Open image in new tab to enlarge.

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.

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 next 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 almost 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 Heart Beat in July

We are about 50 days away from 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 third week in July  over the last 11 years. The Arctic heart is beating clear and strong.

Open image in new tab to enlarge.

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.

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 next 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 almost 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.

June 30 Arctic Ice Update

The image above, supported by the table later on shows that in June water has opened up as usual this time of year.  On the North American side, Bering and Okhotsk (bottom left) were already ice-free, so that Chukchi and Beaufort opened (bottom center).  Meanwhile, in Baffin Bay and Hudson Bay (bottom right) ice has retreated, and given the shallow depth of Hudson Bay it will go ice-free soon.

The picture is more mixed on the Euro-Russian side.  East Siberian (left) is nearly normal, with Laptev and Kara down (upper left) below the 12 year average.  Barents (upper center) has more ice than usual, and is still hanging onto Svalbard.

The graph below shows the surprising discrepancy between MASIE and SII  continued in June, but disappeared by month end.

Note that the  NH ice extent 12 year average declined from 11.8M km2 to 9.8M km2 during in the last 30 days.  MASIE 2019 shows a slower decline from 10.9M km2 to 9.3M km2.  Thus the current deficit to average has reduced during June from 778k km2 to 506k km2, or 5.2% of average. That track is close to 2010 and below other years. 

Region 2019181 Day 181 Average 2019-Ave. 2010181 2019-2010
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 9318729 9824939  -506210  9245692 73037 
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 766793 910839  -144047  861079 -94286 
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 614737 721838  -107101  705357 -90619 
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1000185 1022188  -22003  1040103 -39918 
 (4) Laptev_Sea 600733 726543  -125810  693533 -92800 
 (5) Kara_Sea 494380 571373  -76993  623806 -129427 
 (6) Barents_Sea 188963 116290  72674  82722 106242 
 (7) Greenland_Sea 487331 509216  -21885  464399 22932 
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 431660 512914  -81254  416820 14840 
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 777670 778719  -1049  735649 42020 
 (10) Hudson_Bay 754193 729807  24386  401862 352331 
 (11) Central_Arctic 3196694 3203485  -6791  3191924 4770 
 (12) Bering_Sea 1129 5122  -3994  594 535 
 (13) Baltic_Sea 0 -4  0
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 3248 17144  -13897  26683 -23435 

The table shows where the ice is distributed to make the 5.2% defict to average.  Beaufort Chukchi and Laptev Seas make up most of the NH deficit to average, while Kara and Baffin contribute the rest.

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.

Arctic Ice In Perspective

With Arctic ice melting season underway, warmists are again stoking fears about ice disappearing in the North.  In fact, the pattern of Arctic ice seen in historical perspective is not alarming. People are over-thinking and over-analyzing Arctic Ice extents, and getting wrapped around the axle (or should I say axis).  So let’s keep it simple and we can all readily understand what is happening up North.

I will use the ever popular NOAA dataset derived from satellite passive microwave sensors.  It sometimes understates the ice extents, but everyone refers to it and it is complete from 1979 to 2018.  Here’s what NOAA reports (in M km2):

We are frequently told that only the March maximums and the September minimums matter, since the other months are only transitional between the two.  So the graph above shows the mean ice extent, averaging the two months March and September.

If I were adding this to the Ice House of Mirrors, the name would be The X-Ray Ice Mirror, because it looks into the structure of the time series.   For even more clarity and simplicity, here is the table:

NOAA NH Annual Average Ice Extents (in M km2).  Sea Ice Index v3.0 (here)

Year Average Change Rate of Change
1979 11.697
1996 11.353 -0.344 -0.020 per year
2007 9.405 -1.949 -0.177 per year
2018 9.506  +0.102 +0.009 per year

The satellites involve rocket science, but this does not.  There was a small loss of ice extent over the first 17 years, then a dramatic downturn for 11 years, 9 times the rate as before. That was followed by the current plateau with no further loss of ice extent.  All the fuss is over that middle period, and we know what caused it.  A lot of multi-year ice was flushed out through the Fram Strait, leaving behind more easily melted younger ice. The effects from that natural occurrence bottomed out in 2007.

Kwok et al say this about the Variability of Fram Strait ice flux:

The average winter area flux over the 18-year record (1978–1996) is 670,000 km2, ;7% of the area of the Arctic Ocean. The winter area flux ranges from a minimum of 450,000 km2 in 1984 to a maximum of 906,000 km2 in 1995. . .The average winter volume flux over the winters of October 1990 through May 1995 is 1745 km3 ranging from a low of 1375 km3 in the 1990 flux to a high of 2791 km3 in 1994.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261010602/download

Conclusion:

Some complain it is too soon to say Arctic Ice is recovering, or that 2007 is a true change point.  The same people were quick to jump on a declining period after 1996 as evidence of a “Death Spiral.”

Footnote:

No one knows what will happen to Arctic ice.

Except maybe the polar bears.

And they are not talking.

Except, of course, to the admen from Coca-Cola

Mid June Arctic Ice Lopsided

In the first half of June 2019, the shift from ice to water is unusually lop-sided in two respects. The image above, supported by the table later on shows that in the last two weeks water has opened up faster on the Pacific side, and much slower on the Atlantic side, with the exception of Baffin Bay.  The other surprise is that MASIE shows much less ice than does SII, a reversal of the typical situation.

The graph below shows the surprising discrepancy between MASIE and SII appearing in May and continuing in June.

Note that the  NH ice extent 12 year average declined from 12.7M km2 to 10.9M km2 during in the last 30 days.  MASIE 2019 shows about the same decline from 11.9M km2 to 10.3M km2.  That track matched 2016 in May, but is now closest to 2010 and below other years.  Interestingly SII showed a much slower rate of ice extent loss, starting nearly the same as MASIE, but ended this period 400k km2 higher. and close to average and 2018.

I have no explanation for the differential between MASIE and SII.  Note that ice extents in both datasets are levelling off mid-June.

Region 2019166 Day 166 Average 2019-Ave. 2010166 2019-2010
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 10340833 10933549 -592716 10534077 -193244
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 761369 968193 -206823 933194 -171824
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 680432 799211 -118778 839873 -159441
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1049046 1054090 -5045 1068901 -19856
 (4) Laptev_Sea 750164 778536 -28372 772185 -22021
 (5) Kara_Sea 671900 722641 -50741 717539 -45640
 (6) Barents_Sea 261587 215180 46408 138264 123324
 (7) Greenland_Sea 549038 568045 -19007 524612 24426
 (8) Baffin_Bay_
Gulf_of_St._Lawrence
558105 733399 -175294 667457 -109352
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 787036 798742 -11706 766642 20394
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1014530 1004832 9698 826781 187749
 (11) Central_Arctic 3229461 3221030 8431 3206453 23008
 (12) Bering_Sea 17768 33002 -15234 21317 -3550
 (13) Baltic_Sea 0 7 -7 0 0
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 9381 35292 -25911 83076 -73695

The table shows where the ice is distributed to make the 5.4% defict to average.  Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are more than half of the NH deficit to average, while Baffin has lost 175k km2 to average.

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.