I was planning to start making animations in May, but the sea ice has other plans. A little over a month ago I wrote a blog post about the spectacular and ominous situation in the Barentsz and Kara Seas. A combination of weather conditions and warm SSTs made the sea ice retreat so much that I ventured to say it looked unprecedented in the satellite record (without thoroughly checking, I admit). When the winds turned, the western Kara Sea, the part between Novaya Zemlya and the Siberian coast, finally froze over.
This situation has lasted about a week. The winds have turned again and sea ice is retreating so fast (see LANCE-MODIS satellite image on the top right) that I feel compelled to make an animation. But first let's look at images from the Uni Bremen sea ice concentration map archive to see what the situation in previous years was like:
Astute readers will have noticed that this is what the region looked like on April 15th, a little over a month from now. There's a question mark for 2012, because as of yet we don't know how things will look by then. I'll fill in this blank in April.
Here's the animation for the last couple of days:
Update April 18th: I have written a new blog post, Novaya Zemlya April 2012, with an animation of the second retreat and freeze-up from March 29th onwards.
Update April 5th: The UB SIC maps archive was down for a couple of days, but the animation is up-to-date. Things seem to be opening up again next to Kara Strait. At the same time there has been a lot of ice increase between and south of Svalbard and Franz Josef Land. I don't actually know how much is due to ice transport caused by a big high over the central Arctic, and how much is simply thin ice growth. If it weren't for things opening up in the western Kara Sea (and more to to the east of Novaya Zemlya as well, but let's see how that develops), things would look more normal than a couple of weeks ago. The animation is a bit long now, but it's still interesting to see the whole development in the last 4 weeks. I'll compress it when I update again.
Update March 24th: I have added images from the past week. The western Kara Sea, south of Novaya Zemlya has filled up with ice again. There has also been much ice growth south of Franz Josef Land.
Update March 18th: Looking at last year's satellite images I noticed a retreat that is similar to the current one. I have written a blog post containing an animation of the whole thing: 2011 Novaya Zemlya animation.
March 13th: The action in the western Kara Sea speaks for itself, but it's also interesting to note how far warm ocean currents have managed to eat into the ice pack, almost completely freeing Svalbard of ice. Even if things stay as they are, they will look spectacularly different from the situation in previous years. But perhaps the winds will turn again and cover the sea with thin ice once more, despite the fact that the Sun has now risen enough (over 15 degrees, if I'm not mistaken) to start warming up Kara Strait. By March 20th it will be over the horizon for 6 hours a day. We'll see it when we get there.
I will try to regularly update this animation. If you don't see this blog post on the front page, you can find it by clicking the animations button in the menu bar.