Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Curiously Unfrozen Labrador Sea

January set another record low for Arctic sea ice.

After a record set in December, the median Arctic ice extent for January was the lowest January extent ever recorded, according to the NSIDC, and I have to say that I didn’t see this one coming. True, the ice extent at the beginning of the month was an apparent record low for that day of the year, but the ice was growing at a healthy pace that should have pushed it past the previous low of 2006. But then it paused for a week, and that was just enough to turn the month into a new record.

The main difference was seen in eastern Canada. Ice in the Hudson Bay developed later than ever, but at least Hudson Bay is now ice-covered. Ice never did arrive along the Labrador coast, a curious situation that we have never seen before. At this time of year, the entire length of the Labrador coast ought to be the site of heavy ice cover stretching 200 kilometers from shore. Instead, nothing. Well, finally this week, there is a limited area of ice hugging part of the coastline, but out on the Labrador Sea, open water everywhere you look. With the return of daylight, it is probably too late in the season for ice to form as far south as Labrador, but even if it does, it will melt away soon — the melting season is just one month away.