Lately the focus has been on the Beaufort Sea where a high-pressure area has caused the ice pack to crack on a massive scale, even earlier than in previous years, with ice being transported away from the North American coast (see here). But such a large and persistent high-pressure system is bound to have an impact elsewhere in the Arctic as well, so here's an overview of what's been happening on the Atlantic side of the Arctic (and a bit of Siberia as well).
As we saw in the recent 2015/2016 Winter analysis blog post, the Arctic experienced an incredibly warm/non-cold winter:
On top of that, a string of cyclones crossed the Atlantic and veered off to the Arctic, causing increased ocean heat flux on the Atlantic side of the Arctic, which explains why the Barentsz Sea and Greenland Sea have been anomalously low in sea ice extent all winter. They're still extremely low:
In fact, Svalbard could almost be circumnavigated several times, with at one point very close to ice-free conditions from Svalbard all the way to Franz Josef Land.This graph from the PolarView website shows how anomalously low sea ice levels have been in the Svalbard region:
As said, this is caused by the Beaufort Gyre which has very much sprung into action thanks to that strong and persistent high-pressure area over the Beaufort Sea. This wind-driven ocean current causes the ice pack to move in a clockwise direction, towards the Atlantic:
What's 'funny', is that it took quite a long time for the ice edge to reach Svalbard. Sure, there's some initial inertia to be overcome, but it has been almost two weeks since that 1030-1040 hPa high-pressure giant started pushing things about, and sea ice extent in the Greenland Sea still hasn't budged. This is evidence of warm waters having been pushed northwards into the Arctic by the warm West Spitsbergen Current, spurred on by those cyclones mentioned earlier.
Over on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum, commenter Andreas T looked into the details - using NASA Worldview - and noticed that ice floes actually disintegrate and melt out the further they travel towards the Atlantic (the land to the right is Svalbard):
Not only are Western Greenland and Baffin Bay going to experience another early 'heat wave' (see last week's blog post), but check out those 10-20 °C temperature anomalies over Siberia! This doesn't bode well for the snow cover there at all, which is already being hit hard and disappearing fast these past few days, as this animation of US NIC snow cover maps for Eurasia shows:
Rutgers Global Snow Lab shows the anomaly (red):
It's still early days in the Arctic, but there's already a lot going on, on all sides of the Arctic. The ice pack is cracking on a large scale and on the move, polynyas are forming off the North American coasts (barely freezing over), the Greenland Ice Sheet has already started to melt, ice floes moving through Fram Strait are getting wiped out, snow cover is melting really fast both in North America and Eurasia, sea ice volume was presumed second lowest on record at the end of March, sea ice extent and area have been lowest for weeks now and will stay so for a while to come.
This isn't boding well for the coming melting season at all. Let's hope things improve soon...
I'll be going to the EGU General Assembly 2016 tomorrow. Will report how it was next week.
The NSIDC reports that the problem with the SSMI/S sensor aboard the DMSP F17 satellite may have been resolved! Hurray!
Edit April 22th: Alas, it seems I hurrayed prematurely. I talked to Julienne Stroeve at the EGU General Assembly yesterday, and she told me that the problem is caused by a solar panel that was moved to shade a nitrogen tank on the satellite. They moved it again, and this had seemed to have solved the problem. But unfortunately data glitches returned, so now they're not sure if it can be fixed. Switching to the SSMI/S sensor on F18 takes a lot of time and work.
The real question is: What happens next time a sensor stops reporting accurately? The passive microwave data set based on the SSMI/S sensor is long and continuous. It'd be a real shame if it stopped, if only because we need data diversity.