This is a follow-up to the first Fringe fries post from 3 weeks ago. I've compiled a couple of comparisons of Arctic regions, so we can see how 2012 stacks up against previous years. Remember, you can check out the Concentration Maps page on the ASI Graphs website, which is very handy for a quick look to see how out of the ordinary something is, or just to compare the progress of ice decline to that of previous years. If you want to know to what the geographic location of specific regions is, I recommend going to the Cryosphere Today home page. There's a map in the middle left of the web page.
First we're going to have a look at Hudson Bay as the melting is almost finished there. As usual I use sea ice concentration images from the University of Bremen because of their excellent archive(s). Click on the image for a larger version:
Compared to the other big melt years 2007, 2010 and 2011 there is some more ice left in Hudson Bay right now. This is one of those places I referred to as 'piggy bank' in the latest ASI update. As we can see on this regional sea ice extent graph from NSIDC/NIC, 2012 is 100K and 450K square km behind 2011 and 2010 respectively:
But when you look at the total sea ice extent or area, 2012 is in front of all other years on most of the graphs. The easy ice in the piggy bank will melt out in the coming week, either helping 2012 expand its lead or stay close to the other big melt years, when weather conditions aren't optimal for ice melt elsewhere in the Arctic.
Another region where 2012 is behind other years, is the Greenland Sea:
Because of a relatively high amount of ice transport from the central Arctic through Fram Strait there is currently more ice than in previous years in the Greenland Sea. But the concentration isn't very high and last week some of the ice was blown away from the coast. As sea surface temperatures near the ice are relatively high (see ASI update 6 towards the end), this is another region where there is room for 2012 to catch up with other years and thus expand its total lead even further.
That the piggy bank theory works both ways, is also shown in the panel above. I cropped the images on purpose like this so Baffin Bay would be visible too. Because of ice arches at the southern end of Nares Strait and the eastern end of the Northwest Passage staying intact (blog posts here and here), there has been no ice transport so far from the Arctic Basin or the Canadian Archipelago into Baffin Bay. On top of that sea surface temperatures are anomalously high there, so the remaining ice is disappearing fast. This is a region where 2012 has taken out a loan so to speak, and other years have the advantage of still being able to melt all the easy ice.
Another region where 2012 is in front of other years - and has been for many months now - is the Siberian coast. As the ice in the Barentsz Sea has melted out by now in all previous years of the 2004-2012 period, I now focus on the ice in the Kara and Laptev Seas:
2011 and this year really stand out, but really. Where other years still had ice left between Novaya Zemlya and the Siberian coast, 2011 and 2012 almost have the Kara and Laptev Seas connected to each other (again, see how the Arctic is divided in regions on the Cryosphere Today homepage). This year the edge of the ice pack has retreated behind Svalbard and Franz Josef Land as well.
Although 2012 is very much ahead in these regions, it doesn't have much to do with piggy banks and stuff. Other regions like Hudson Bay, the Greenland Sea and Baffin Bay are pretty much isolated, so when the ice is gone there, it's gone and doesn't influence the total numbers. But when the ice in the Kara and Laptev Seas melts out, all of the heat moves on and continues nibbling at the ice edge in the East Siberian Sea and Arctic Basin, which makes it more difficult for other years to catch up.
Looking at the current DMI SST anomaly map this could very well happen this year again:
Red all over the place, except for one: Bering Strait and the Chukchi Sea. There will be a blog post about this region tomorrow as it just might become the one thing - beside weather patterns - to keep 2012 from breaking the sea ice area and extent records.