After a silence we have a report from Barneo, which suggests the Norwegians made it impossible to use Svalbard as base of operations. The key sentences are these: “Then on April, 7 we got further problems from the Norwegian authorities. Trude Petterson, The Independent Barents Observer reporter, found a threat to national security in our conventional activities.”
As best as I can tell, the Russians have had to shift to Franz Josef Land as a alternative, and will likely do so in the future, if they continue the Barneo bases. It will be rough on the economy of Svalbard to lose the tourists, I imagine. I’m not sure what has happened with the tourists this year, or heard anything about the planting of this year’s North Pole Camera.
The ice appears to be sound, though there are a lot of pressure ridges.
The Barneo site continues to drift south towards Fram Strait.
The red line at the top is the “Race Against Time” expedition, which originally was planned to travel from the Pole to Canada. Likely all the delays caused them to back out of that plan, and take an easier route. I find their site a little amusing, for they are stressing how warm the Arctic has been this winter, but describing how the ice is thicker than it was when Mark Wood crossed the same area two years ago. There are many more pressure ridges, which they describe as “boulder fields”. It is no joke hauling sleds over such barriers.
It is worthwhile to compare this years ice with last year’s. (If you open each map (link) to a new tab you can then switch back and forth to better see the comparison.) (2015 is to the left; 2016 is to the right.)
It is clear that the ice is thinner in Barents and Kara seas, but largely because that ice has been exported, and crunched over to the Pole. Ordinarily a pressure ridge is too small to be seen in these satellite-derived thickness-maps, as a pressure ridge gets averaged-out, however in the above 2016 map a long curving “mountain range” of ice averaging nine feet thick curves directly over the Pole. In order for this to not be averaged-out, it must consist of numerous smaller pressure ridges, some which obviously would be more than nine feet thick. So far I have been unable to get a good view of this feature from satellite pictures, due to clouds. It curves all the way down to the area north of Greenland’s northeast corner, and is likely bound for Fram Strait. Ice is pushed closer to the northwest corner of Svalbard this year, and likely is chilling the tendril of the Gulf Stream that enters the arctic there, as it is melted.
The Polynya northwest of Alaska is larger this year, as are the polynyas along the North Slope coasts of Alaska and Canada. The ice missing from these areas has largely been swept over towards East Siberia, which has thick ice piled up on its coasts, and thicker-than-last-year ice out to sea. This area will likely be slower to melt this summer, especially as the Pacific seems colder. It will be interesting to watch the Laptev Sea in August, when the freshwater floods from the Lena River reach their peak, as the floods will likely be greater (and perhaps colder) this year due to deep snows inland in Siberia. These surges of fresh water have a big effect on that coast of the Arctic.
One feature I watched last summer I dubbed “The Slot”, north of Alaska. A feature-of-this-feature was “The Reef”, which formed The Slot’s southern edge. This never completely melted away, as it originally consisted of some huge pressure ridges, and I’ve watched it all winter as it was swept around all the way to 160 degrees east longitude. It likely forms a considerable pile of ice-chunks over there. The ice north of Siberia is by no means flat “baby ice”. It is a pity we lost our two O-buoy cameras that were over that way.
In order to have all the ice piled up towards Russia it needed to be exported from the Beaufort Sea, which the satellite views show as being crisscrossed by a web of leads and frozen leads, some quite wide, and some frozen-over quite thickly. That sea’s water has been losing heat all winter through these leads.
O-buoy 13 continues to be swept east north of Alaska, and pictures a cold and windswept scene, with temperatures showing a diurnal swing between -10°C and -15°C.
O-buoy 14 is further east, has finally melted its lens free. We were lucky to not lose this buoy over the winter, as a small pressure ridge grew right at its feet. Note the Mass Balance buoy tipped (and likely not reporting) to the lower right.
This buoy’s thermometer seems more effected by sunlight, and over the past few days has shown a diurnal swing between -22°C and -7°C, with the high temperatures less high when the wind picks up. (Judging from shadows, there are some decent pressure ridges off-camera to the left and behind our left shoulder.)
This should be a very interesting summer, as the El Nino is rapidly fading, and cracks of blue, below-normal water are already showing up off the coast of South America, indicative of a La Nina coming on. The North Atlantic is cooler, and “The Warm Blob” is largely gone from the North Pacific, (though some residual heat from the El Nino may be heading north past Japan).
There will be a “lag time” before any La Nina coolness effects the Pole, but the Scripps model is showing an absolute whopper of a La Nina. Likely it is overboard, and things will not be this extreme (for it would set records) but usually Scripps is a fairly decent model, and the situation does bear watching.