I've coloured the land masses to make it easier to orient. I've also put in the red arrows to show which way the winds blow along the so-called isobars.
This is the second notable high of this year, following another big one in February that produced strong winds that pushed the ice away from the coast. This phenomenon called the Beaufort Gyre resulted in what we call a cracking event around here (see this blog post). Of course, the Arctic was plenty cold around that time and so the leads froze over again, but the marks are still visible on this AVHHR image (provided again by Environment Canada):
On the one hand those leads let heat escape from the ocean water, on the other hand the thin ice between the enormous floes will melt out easily as soon as sunlight and higher temperatures start taking over, possibly making the entire zone more vulnerable early in the melting season.
The reason I've decided to dedicate a blog post to this, has to do with the current ECMWF forecast for the coming 6 days:
I've put a red circle in the first image to make it easier to discern where the Beaufort Sea is. As you can see, that high-pressure is staying put there for at least the next 6 days, with pressure varying between 1035 and 1040 hPa, which is relatively high. This will inevitably pull away the (thin) ice from the coast again, and it remains to be seen how much it will or can freeze over this time.
The Beaufort Sea more or less experienced the same kind of weather last year, with ice pulling away from the coast and open water not refreezing so easily, as can be seen in this animation showing what happened during April (courtesy of seaicesailor on the ASIF):
Last year's April cracking event caused a lot of fragmented multi-year ice to be transported all the way up to the Chukchi Sea (see here), leaving a vulnerable looking barrier on the Pacific side of the Arctic. When this was followed by an early heat wave in May (see here), the ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas received a beating it never really recovered from during the rest of the melting season. This was also because continental snow had melted out really quickly, making it possible for warm winds to blow in from the land.
May is still a few weeks away, but we can have a look at what the GFS temperature forecast is for the coming 6 days, according to Climate Reanalyzer:
The actual temperatures are on the left, the temperature anomalies on the right. The first thing to notice when focusing on the image on the left, is the green colour that spreads over Alaska, which indicates above freezing conditions. This will most probably impact snow cover not too far from the coast, and as said, no snow cover means increasingly warmer temperatures that can be blown towards the Beaufort Sea at some point.
As shown on this map provided by the US National Ice Center, there are already some patches of snowless ground cover in Alaska, and these are bound to get larger in the coming week:
Now, if we go back to that CCI temperature animation and focus on the image on the right, we also see that very large anomalies are forecast for Greenland and Baffin Bay, stretching all the way to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, resulting in above zero conditions there as well. The same goes for Bering Strait.
Looking at regional sea ice extent for these regions there is plenty of big drop potential, and sea ice in the Sea of Okhotsk has already started to disappear fast:
The melting season has barely started, but there are already plenty of things to keep an eye on. That was to be expected after an unprecedented winter.