Still pack ice around Bear Island in the Barents Sea on 15 May: last time was 2003

It’s very open drift ice (1-4/10th concentration) but still: Bear Island (Bjørnøya) in the southern Barents Sea was still surrounded by pack ice at 15 May 2020. As far as I can tell from the Norwegian Ice Service archived ice charts, this hasn’t happened since 2003.

Svalbard ice extent 2020 May 15_NIS

And last week, the island was surrounded by heavy drift ice, which hadn’t happened on 8 May since 1977.

Back in 2003, there were no coloured ice charts but the 4/10th ice around Bear Island in the south is apparent on this chart:

Svalbard ice extent 2003 May 15_NIS archive

On 8 May – a week after my last post on this topic – the NIS tweeted an image of the ice around Bear Island with this comment added:

“Bjørnøya often sees scattered sea ice in May but the last time there was packed ice above 4/10ths was in 1993 and above 7/10ths in 1977.” [see image below]

Bear Island 8 May 2020 NIS

Below is the ice chart for 8 May, with Bear Island surrounded by concentrated (9-10/10ths) very close drift ice (red): there has not been such very close drift ice around the island on 8 May since 1977.

Svalbard ice extent 2020 May 8_NIS

Oddly, still no reports of polar bears near the weather station on Bear Island this year but it seems unlikely there we none. More likely, the media has been preoccupied with pandemic news.

Also of note, on 12 May sea ice reached Jan Mayen Island off East Greenland for the first time since April 2004:

Below is the Denmark Strait ice chart for 12 May, but unfortunately one of the grid lines is almost completely obscuring Jan Mayen Island (looks for deep inverted ‘V’ on top of it):

Barents Denmark Strait sea ice 2020 May 12_NIS closeup

Next week I’ll look at the sea ice situation in the Beaufort Sea and the Canadian Arctic.

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