See the dramatic ice edge images from northern Barents Sea

Sea ice is melting away under the feet of the polar bear.

Instead of expanding like normally this time of the year, sea ice vanished last month in huge areas north of Svalbard and in the northern Barents Sea. 2015 could be all-time minimum for late winter, likely to be followed by record little ice the coming summer.


Scientists with the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, USA, who are monitoring satellite images of Arctic sea ice, presents maps showing lower sea ice extent in the northern Barents Sea the first week of March than in February. 

Both northwest of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago and in the waters east of Svalbard south of Franz Josef Land towards Novaya Zemlya have less sea ice this week than in February. 

So instead of growing like normally in the first week of March, sea ice sees a dramatic shrinkage. In a blog post published in Discover, Tom Yulsman has made an animation (see under) clearly showing the decrease in sea ice in the Barents Sea over the last two weeks.

“It’s pretty obvious, right? Dramatic shrinkage of sea ice in those areas — when it should still be growing. True, it does grow in some other places. But that doesn’t make up for the losses,” Tom Yulsman writes. (Click on image for larger version).

Sea ice extent is below average across the entire Arctic Sea. In the Pacific region, the extent is even lower than in the Barents Sea.

Normally, Arctic sea ice maximum occurs from mid-March to late-March, but this year the peak could already have past. If so, 2015 will see new lowest winter maximum in satellite monitored history.

The Norwegian Polar Institute is currently heading a science expedition where the vessel “Lance” is frozen into the sea ice between Svalbard and the North Pole. The vessel drift with the ice as the team of international scientists on board studies oceanographic properties, the ice itself, meteorological parameters and ice dynamics. 

You can follow the science cruise on the blog site of the Polar Institute. 

A NASA study shows that while sea ice has diminished in almost all regions of the Arctic, it grows in part of the Antarctic. However, global sea ice extent is decreasing since the ice in the melts more than it gains in Antarctica. 

The video below shows how Arctic sea ice has melted away from 1979 to 2014. Avarage temperatures in the Arctic have risen by about 4°C, some 3°C warmer than average increase globally in the same 35 years period. 

Another study, referred by BarentsObserver last week, shows that the ice in the central Arctic Ocean thinned 65 percent between 1975 and 2012, from 3.59 meters to 1.25 meters. 

A scenario published by Arctic News suggests that if the Arctic sea ice keeps falling in the same speed till end of April and then are followed by a decrease similar to the one in 2012 for the next four months, the entire Arctic sea ice could be wiped out for more than a month from September 1st.

If that happens, sunlight that previously went into melting the sea ice, as well as sunlight that was previously reflected back into space by sea ice, would be absorbed by the Arctic Ocean instead. In other words, the blog concludes; we can expect a massive warming, Arctic News reports.