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Snow & Ice coverage in the Northern Hemisphere Winter 2018/19

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There is something unusual going on in the Northwest Passage at Fort Ross on the east end of the Bellot Sraight. Fourteen vessels have gathered - two pleasure craft, one cargo vessel and ELEVEN passenger vessels/cruise ships. There are three ways out for them and all are now currently blocked by at least 70-80% ice as the melt season seems to have wound down early this year  - though still melting in more southerly areas - and wind and currents have been pushing more ice into some places.

https://ice-glaces.ec.gc.ca/prods/WIS38CT/20180831180000_WIS38CT_0010207735.pdf

Blockages could improve briefly or get worse irreversably at this time of year. Forecasts for increasing snow and falling temperatures over the next few days don't help prospects. Ice class vessels - to differing standards - can navigate thicker ice but it still carries an increased risk of some problems so they still prefer to avoid, if possible. How many craft are ice class? They'd also prefer to avoid old multiyear ice which is much harder than similarly thick newer one year ice. What is this highly unusual - dare I say unprecedented - meeting of 14 vessels about and where are they going to go, given the ice blocking all paths? (They came in from the north and the door then shut behind them.)

Edit - it looks like there might be two icebreakers on their way. Perhaps a path is about to be broken for them. Icebreakers regularly help annual supply ships get through to supply local communities so it would be normal to help the cargo ship. That will likely be ice class. In the past, you would sometimes get odd pleasure craft that are not ice class follow in their wake through small blockages to get out of dangerous areas.. Perhaps this is about to be comfortably the biggest convoy to ever go through the NWP! Even, with a two icebreaker escort, it would still probably be a pretty risky exercise. These waters are quite shallow in many places, with very strong currents in the Bellot straight, and not charted well for underwater obstacles - hence that research ship, Akademik Ioffe, running aground not far to the south last week and having to evacuate 162 passengers.

https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/centerx:-94.0/centery:71.9/zoom:7

http://arcticnorthwestpassage.blogspot.com/2018/08/canadian-coast-guard-sends-seven.html?view=sidebar

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/kugaaruk-passenger-ship-refloated-arctic-1.4799050

 

Edited by Aleman

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Snow level dropping, with the first dusting showing up on the mountains of Longyearbyen 

www.webcamgalore.com/webcam/Norway/Longyearbyen-Spitsbergen/1457.html

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Lots of snow is expected for Canada and Russia this week. How much will settle?

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The model output for the next couple of weeks suggesting a -AO and a consequent southwards push of colder air into the continents, e.g.:

ECH1-240.GIF?04-12

The pattern of recent years is a fast snow cover build up for September through November before the westward progression hits a brick wall in Belarus/Ukraine.

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1 hour ago, Yarmy said:

The model output for the next couple of weeks suggesting a -AO and a consequent southwards push of colder air into the continents, e.g.:

ECH1-240.GIF?04-12

The pattern of recent years is a fast snow cover build up for September through November before the westward progression hits a brick wall in Belarus/Ukraine.

I'm looking forward to that !!

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Look at Sept 1st and Sept 3rd. What a difference in sea ice over Siberia. Meteociel predicted lots of snow. The Northern Sea Route/Northeast Passage barely opened and looks like it could close soon after only 3 weeks. (The Northwest Passage has not opened and temperatures are expected to drop sharply this week.)  Meteociel predict a lot more snow so it looks a very stong start to winter up there - or should I say autumn?

ims2018244_alaska.gifims2018246_alaska.gif

 

Meteociel indicate 3 feet of snow on Svalbard and some Russian Islands and Northern Canadian Islands  - can it be correct? I know local weather forecasts for northern Nanuvut have indicated repeated snow showers for days but 3 feet seems an awful large accumulation so early.

Http://www.meteociel.fr/modeles/gfse_cartes.php?mode=16&ech=6&carte=1

 

 

Edited by Aleman
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10 hours ago, Aleman said:

Look at Sept 1st and Sept 3rd. What a difference in sea ice over Siberia. Meteociel predicted lots of snow. The Northern Sea Route/Northeast Passage barely opened and looks like it could close soon after only 3 weeks. (The Northwest Passage has not opened and temperatures are expected to drop sharply this week.)  Meteociel predict a lot more snow so it looks a very stong start to winter up there - or should I say autumn?

ims2018244_alaska.gifims2018246_alaska.gif

 

Meteociel indicate 3 feet of snow on Svalbard and some Russian Islands and Northern Canadian Islands  - can it be correct? I know local weather forecasts for northern Nanuvut have indicated repeated snow showers for days but 3 feet seems an awful large accumulation so early.

Http://www.meteociel.fr/modeles/gfse_cartes.php?mode=16&ech=6&carte=1

 

 

Can't see it on the webcam >> http://longyearbyen.kystnor.no/

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11 hours ago, Aleman said:

Look at Sept 1st and Sept 3rd. What a difference in sea ice over Siberia. Meteociel predicted lots of snow. The Northern Sea Route/Northeast Passage barely opened and looks like it could close soon after only 3 weeks. (The Northwest Passage has not opened and temperatures are expected to drop sharply this week.)  Meteociel predict a lot more snow so it looks a very stong start to winter up there - or should I say autumn?

ims2018244_alaska.gifims2018246_alaska.gif

 

Meteociel indicate 3 feet of snow on Svalbard and some Russian Islands and Northern Canadian Islands  - can it be correct? I know local weather forecasts for northern Nanuvut have indicated repeated snow showers for days but 3 feet seems an awful large accumulation so early.

Http://www.meteociel.fr/modeles/gfse_cartes.php?mode=16&ech=6&carte=1

 

 

 

That's just the graphical rendering that Meteociel uses with data from the GFS model. The model has a grid resolution of 28 miles (last time I checked anyway; it might have upgraded), so you won't get much detail over Svalbard which is only 150-200 miles in extent. I suppose it could be roughly correct in places over the highest peaks.

That said, there will be a shortwave feature moving over Svalbard during the course of the day that will bring precipitation of some kind. 

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Yarmy, I think you are correct. If you zoom in to maximum magnification, lower areas of Svalbard have much lower levels of snow crudely represented but Svalbard is pretty mountainous. There has been a dusting of fresh snow on the hill and mountian tops close to the University of Svalbard in Turnedoutniceagain's weathercam link, with settled snow above perhaps 600 feet. That populated lowland area only shows a green grid eventully when you zoom in at max, indicating about 2cm of snow. It is possible Meteo's 6-hour forecast was close and it had about 2cm of snow, most of which then melted back. If Meteo is correct, then it still does suggest a build up of 3 feet of snow in recent weeks on Svalbard mountains. Given the Alps have already seen media reports of over a foot in places, I suppose that is possible. Meteo's indication of similar levels of snow in northern islands of Nanuvut, Canada still seems a bit high on the high side, though there has been day after day of snow showers at Resolute for about two weeks, now, and a few more days expected.

Meteociel is also predicting lots more widepsread snow for the Arctic, Canada and Siberia, and a few other places , like Iceland to lower levels and Norwegian mountains, in the next week or so.

http://www.meteociel.fr/modeles/gfse_cartes.php?mode=16&ech=6&carte=1

 

Edited by Aleman

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summer blizzard - I don't think anyone would for a minute describe the Northwest Passage as "open" at any point this year. Numerous passenger vessels and small pleasure craft have been queuing up to try get through. Most have now aborted and Coast Guard advice has been to stay clear. However, a few larger vessels still sit at the east end of the Bellot Straight. More interestingly and surprisingly, one small craft has manage to get through, taking a very testing 26 days to negotiate the main ice blockage in the southern Franklin Straight, after repeated attempts to escape being trapped in an eastern bay by lots of 90% ice. Remember, one yacht has already been sunk by ice this year. Was the Thor skilled or lucky, brave or mad? A few ice breakers went through towards the end of their tortuous route and I noticed one turn around in that area. Did they get any help, as happened with several yachts in recent years? If not, it is an amazing achievement, given the amount of ice this year.

http://arcticnorthwestpassage.blogspot.com/2018/09/sv-thor-de-arrives-tuktoyaktuk-from.html?view=sidebar

Some of those that have aborted have been having trouble getting back east through increasing ice back to Baffin Bay and Greenland. Early signs of refreeze could also cause problems for the Russian research icebreaker, Akademik Ioffe, which grounded in the gulf of Boothia and is having urgent repairs to make it seaworthy enough to move on. Also, Hudson Bay seems to have been cut off by ice in the northeastern area and Hudson Straight until mid-August. Icebreaker escorts were called and there are still bits of ice there sat in cold water temperatures, so it could likely start to freeze up again early, having had hardly any shipping traffic this year. The Northern Sea Route/Northeast Passage across Russia opened late this year around August 14th but seems to have still had a little scattered ice until a week ago. After only 3 weeks open with cold water temperatures, an early closure looks possible, but warmer water does now seem to be making itself present there so it might stay open a few weeks yet.)

http://www.meteociel.fr/modeles/gfse_cartes.php?mode=16&ech=6&carte=1

 

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And, depending on lower ice concentrations not shown on NOAA's map, that chart also indicates the possible early closure of the Northern Sea Route/Northeast Passage after only about 3 1/2 weeks. I understood it has typically been more like 6-10 weeks over the last couple of decades (though any information from others welcome) so looks a very short season there and no opening at all of the Northwest Passage this year. Local and international shipping have been having quite a few problems in those areas and stretched icebreaking resources have bene making news, not forgetting Hudson Bay opening late and still looking very cold. Granted it has been an unusual year for Arctic ice dipersion, with lots spread out in peripheral fingers while some more central areas have been low. As with unsual pockets of very high temperatures and very low temperatures on land this year, it's also been a very interesting interesting year with areas of ununusual sea ice extremes. 2018 might be said to be a year of contrasting extremes or, dare I say it, a bit bipolar?

Edited by Aleman
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Well, here we go again! Good to see so many posters coming out of Summer hibernation.

Good to see some small snow gains in Siberia. Early days, but may it keep on progressing! :D

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Unusually, there were snow showers most of the summer in the heart of the Northwest Passage. It was colder than average most of the summer apart from a notable warm week around the end of July. Locals complain about the cold summer and the coast guard are still having trouble helping supply ships. (Note - they don't mention above that the two that were rescued had lost their aluminium yacht, Anahita, which sank after being crushed by ice in the Bellot Straight at the end of August.)

http://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/65674summers_over_in_nunavut_as_ice_snow_move_back_in/

Meteociel now indicate the Northeast Passage has closed at around 170 East. I make that only 24 days open - though it could still reopen.

http://www.meteociel.fr/modeles/gfse_cartes.php?mode=16&ech=6&carte=1

 

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7 hours ago, Aleman said:

Meteociel now indicate the Northeast Passage has closed at around 170 East. I make that only 24 days open - though it could still reopen.

http://www.meteociel.fr/modeles/gfse_cartes.php?mode=16&ech=6&carte=1

 

The northern sea route is narrower than last year but is still wide open

Arctic_AMSR2_nic_small.thumb.jpg.3d8540bde3ad9a4f258f9d5ecb620f5d.jpg

The ice in that area is just scattered floes, tens of kilometres offshore shown clearly in today's visible satellite images 

https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/?p=arctic&l=VIIRS_SNPP_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor(hidden),MODIS_Aqua_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor,MODIS_Terra_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor(hidden),Reference_Labels(hidden),Reference_Features(hidden),Coastlines&t=2018-09-08-T00%3A00%3A00Z&z=3&v=-1466812.8553492154,1681641.1034302178,-767420.8553492154,1979625.1034302178

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Just scattered floes? There looks more than enough ice there to trap unstrengthened, small and/or low powered vessels that can't just push on through ice floes. Getting trapped can lead to crushing and sinking pretty quickly, as already happened this year in the Bellot Straight. Bigger and more powerful ice-class ships can go through denser floes and icebreakers can go through 1-3 metres of solid ice (from light to heavy icebreakers) but that does not mean we say the North Pole is "open" to sailing. Some say a sailing route is open if ice concentration is 30% or less. Some say 10% or even zero. It varies a bit with the type of ice. The ice in the area on your satellite image looks way over 30%. It's a great image, by the way. Thanks.

Your Bremen ice map does not match your satellite image, for some reason, and so would not be very useful for sea captains trying to navigate the margins in normal vessels. The satellite image is very clear. It DOES match the US National Weather Service ice chart (below) pretty much perfectly, although that does not extend as far west as Ayon where the ice-free strip is narrowest. This is the chart where I saw the Northern Sea route remained closed until it cleared unusually late on August 14th (dropping below 30% on the western edge that could be seen) after a thick "finger" of ice from the main pack lingered into the East Siberian and Chuckchi Seas, which only then retracted a bit further.

https://www.weather.gov/afc/ice

On your satellite image, you can see the narrowest channel of clear water is currenlty a little under 20 miles wide as it rounds the bend at Ayon so it IS clearly still just open after narrowing greatly in recent days in the prevailing northwesterly. In that respect, you are correct that the Northern route is still narrowly open - thanks - but with winds that could easily close it in just a matter of hours if continued. The ice density behind the edge there looks to be no less than the 70-80% ice indicated just west of Wrangel Island in the NWS chart, so would be considered closed to normal sailing. That might explain why the limited shipping in that area has been running very close to shore, which can carry some risks.

I've started posting here recently as a novice about the workings of weather and climate (hence still uncovering many resources) after years of following sailing bloggers battles with the Northwest Passage. I sort of stumbled onto them accidentally after I passed my first sailing certificate and was reading up. There have been some amazing stories of bravery and foolishness over the years, like the Ozzy outdoor sports TV crew that tried to jetski it and needed rescuing before they froze to death as bad weather forced camp, or the solo solar panel powered vessel this year that ice pushed close to shore and waves then dumped on the beach, for the unlucky and then VERY LUCKY sailor to get found by an isolated biology expedition before he was eaten, with no other help for 100s of miles. They are not all mad. Some vessels plan in great depth and get through. The Canadian Coast Guard have to rescue and/or escort vessels every year when they are often overstretched trying to keep supply ships getting through to local communities with vital cargoes. Some people put so much effort and reputation into a transit that they take crazy risks when the elements turn on them. Others are more sensible and take the emotional hit of aborting before it gets too dangerous. I find the real life dramas make great reading - and tend to put me off sailing!

(Apologies if you are already into the sailing side of things and I'm teaching you to suck eggs!)

 

Edited by Aleman
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And overnight my NWS link has updated and shown the ice just west of Wrangel Island dropping from 70-80% to 10-30%, which tends to make me look a bit stupid! Although it would be nice to see the update on the NASA satellite image (and other sources) for comparison before I take it as confirmation! 🙂

 

Edit - I see the NASA ice map has updated and the ice edge has only moved a mile or two nearer shore and "softened" a bit so Nothern Route still open and with an ice margin that looks a little more navigable, though still dubious for non-ice class vessels.

Edited by Aleman

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Ice is down to 4.7m but it has gone up and down daily recently so we are pretty close to minimum. 

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On 09/09/2018 at 01:42, Aleman said:

Just scattered floes? There looks more than enough ice there to trap unstrengthened, small and/or low powered vessels that can't just push on through ice floes. Getting trapped can lead to crushing and sinking pretty quickly, as already happened this year in the Bellot Straight. Bigger and more powerful ice-class ships can go through denser floes and icebreakers can go through 1-3 metres of solid ice (from light to heavy icebreakers) but that does not mean we say the North Pole is "open" to sailing. Some say a sailing route is open if ice concentration is 30% or less. Some say 10% or even zero. It varies a bit with the type of ice. The ice in the area on your satellite image looks way over 30%. It's a great image, by the way. Thanks.

Well of course if you're including the vessel's ice class then for the highest ratings the NSR is open all year round for independent navigation but this is not the same as ice-free.

The ice-class and access to the various regions of the NSR under varying ice conditions can be seen here - http://www.arctic-lio.com/nsr_iceclasscriteria - vessels without ice reinforcement are only allowed in open water between July-November 15th without icebreaker support.

This is in theory anyway, assuming they have a permit from the Russian Northern Sea Route Administration - http://nsra.ru/en/home.html

Their opening dates of the ports along the route this year were in July -

Summer navigation started in the NSR
From 00 h 00 min July 05, 2018 summer navigation will start in the Dikson port. Order dated July 05, 2018 № 2/2018.
From 00 h 00 min July 30, 2018 abolition of restrictions on the mode of navigationin the Dudinka port. Order dated May 15, 2018 № № 07/18.
From 00 h 00 min July 15, 2018 summer navigation will start in the Khatanga port. Order dated July 15, 2018 № 01/18.
From 00 h 00 min July 10, 2018 summer navigation will start in the Tiksi port. Order dated July 19, 2018 № 1/2018
From 00 h 00 min July 02, 2018 summer navigation will start in the Pevek port. Order dated July 02, 2018 № 1/18.

As of 07/09/18 there were 84 vessels officially along various parts of the NSR - http://nsra.ru/en/grafik_dvijeniya_po_smp.html?date=2018-09-07 - only a few traverse the whole route of course. Worth bearing in mind though that the narrow ~20 mile open water in the East Siberian Sea is the width of the English Channel.

If you have a decent icebreaker though you can bypass the NSR - at the moment the Swedish icebreaker Oden is near the north pole at 88°42'N

oden.thumb.png.941366cdd452438bd02e12e833722bd1.png

 

Edited by Interitus
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I found a bit more on the Oden's summer trip. Ice did not start until high up this year, at 82N, but it had "serious difficulties" getting to the North Pole due to "very dense" pack ice.

http://www.highnorthnews.com/icebreaker-encounters-most-difficult-ice-conditions-in-15-years/

https://www.meereisportal.de/en/archive/2018-news-english/awi-team-reaches-the-north-pole/

 

 

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