Bering Sea ice is the exception, with well above-average ice
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY —Other than the Bering Sea, Arctic sea ice remained below average in January, with the extent totaling about 5.3 million square miles, the fourth-lowest January sea ice extent in the satellite record going back to 1979.
Since satellite records started, the linear rate of decline for January ice extent over the satellite record is 3.2 percent per decade, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which posted its latest update this week.
This year’s growth rate for Arctic sea ice in January was the slowest on record. After growing relatively quickly early in January, ice extent declined briefly in the middle of the month, and then grew more slowly than normal for the rest of the month. The slow growth likely stemmed from winds from the south and west that compressed the sea ice in the Kara and Barents seas, and above-average temperatures and winds that limited ice growth in the Sea of Okhotsk.
Based on the satellite record, January ice extent had never dropped below 5.41 million square miles before 2005, but has fallen below that mark six out of the last seven years.
The exception to the low ice extent was in the Bering Sea, where January ice reached the second-highest level in the satellite record. The record high ice extent for the month was in January 2000.
The above-average sea ice extent in the Bering Sea stemmed from a persistent low pressure system south and east of the Alaskan coast, which leads to winds from the north or northeast that blow into the Bering Sea region. This weather pattern also brought moist air from the Pacific Ocean to the southern Alaska coast, helping to explain record snowfalls in towns such as Cordova, Alaska, which received over 15 feet of snow between early November and mid-January.