Now that the MODIS white ball in the middle of the Arctic Mosaic is receding more and more, it's high time we start looking at what's going on down below (some of you who weren't hibernating already did of course). As the skies above the Bering Sea and its Strait have been exceptionally clear lately I decided it was a good exercise to get my animation skills in shape for the coming melting season.
Here's what's been happening in the past ten days, from March 5th (day 64) to 14th (day 73):
There's obviously a lot of mobility with ice being transported into the Arctic Basin (!). Lots of big leads along the coasts as well. What a difference compared to last year:
I went into the Uni Bremen archives and retrieved images of sea ice concentrations from the past week. I've put a resized version of the satellite images next to it to see how sea ice concentration images compare to satellite images:
While I was at it, I also retrieved sea ice concentration images from 2004 to this year. It's too bad we don't have satellite images from more previous years, because this is looking exceptionally remarkable, I think.
I think 2011 looks markedly different from recent years, with the exception perhaps of 2007. 2004 and 2005 look more concentrated, but have less ice at the margins that are in contact with the Pacific. The same goes for 2003.
So why is sea ice concentration relatively low and is the ice looking very mobile in this part of the Arctic at this time of year? I have looked at SST anomaly (sea surface temperature) images from this JAXA site, and what the heck, made another animation:
This year the sea surface temperatures seem to be a bit higher on the Pacific side of the Arctic than other years in the period 2006-2010 (again, with perhaps the exception of 2007). SSTs in the period 2003-2005 were higher, which explains why there was less ice on the margins. Of course, in that period the ice was probably healthier than it is now. Who knows how things would look if SSTs were as high now as they were then.