An Arctic Surprise

  • Date: 15/05/17
  • Ron Clutz, Science Matters

Something surprising is happening with Arctic ice.  It is May and ice should be melting, but instead it is growing and in the unlikely place of Barents Sea.

 Click on the image above; it shows the ice positions since April, and you can see on the left how ice refused to leave Newfoundland, and on the right how Barents is not backing down but increasing.

The graph below shows how in recent days 2017 NH ice extents have grown way above average, even including the exceptionally low amounts of ice in the Pacific, Bering in particular.

Much of the growth is due to Barents adding 85k m2 in the last 5 days to reach 572k km2, an extent last seen two weeks ago.

The graph below shows Arctic ice excluding the Pacific seas of Bering and Okhotsk.  This provides an even more dramatic view of this years ice extents.  Mid April Arctic ice was average, and look what has happened since May began on day 121.

Some insight into the unusual Arctic ice growth comes from AER Arctic Report and Forecast May 8, 2017

Currently positive pressure/geopotential height anomalies are mostly focused on the North Atlantic side of the Arctic with mostly negative pressure/geopotential height anomalies across the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere (NH). This is resulting in a near record low Arctic Oscillation (AO) and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) for May.

It might be the second week of May but an unusually strong block/high pressure exists in the northern North Atlantic including Iceland and Greenland and is more commonly associated with winter. The unusually strong block is contributing to not only below normal temperatures to both sides of the North Atlantic, including Europe and the Eastern US but late season snowfall to Southeastern Canada, the Northeastern US and Russia. The negative geopotential height anomalies that have developed both downstream across western Eurasia including Europe and upstream across the Eastern US are predicted to persist for much of the month of May helping to ensure a relatively cool month of May for both Europe and the Eastern US.

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