Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry
August 2019

Vol. 24, No.32 Week of August 11, 2019

Beaufort, Chukchi ice edges move north

Kristen Nelson

Petroleum News

The National Weather Service said Aug. 5 in its sea ice advisory for western and Arctic Alaska coastal waters that the main ice edge in the Chukchi Sea is some 250 nautical miles (more than 280 statute miles) north of Point Barrow. For the Beaufort Sea, the main ice edge is some 190 nautical miles (more than 250 statute miles) north of Point Barrow. NWS said the ice edge is expected to retreat northward 20 to 30 nautical miles (23-35 statute miles) over the week.

Much of the Chukchi Sea ice pack melting was in the eastern Chukchi Sea, NWS said, with remaining ice thicker first year and multiyear ice.

There was more change in the Beaufort Sea ice pack, NWS said, with some high concentration areas decaying. “The previously shorefast ice along the Beaufort coast has since broken away, with the only pack ice remaining along the coast from Harrison Bay to approximately 20 nm west of Kaktovik.”

NWS said it expects the ice edges in both the Chukchi and Beaufort to continue to retreat slowly through the rest of the summer melt period and into early freeze-up, with the remaining pack ice along the Beaufort coast expected to gradually melt through August.

New record low

The National Snow and Ice Data Center said in an Aug. 6 posting on its website that the July 2019 Arctic sea ice extent set a new record low of 2.93 million square miles, with the monthly average extent 30,900 square miles below the previous record set in 2012 and 726,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average.

“On a daily basis,” the center said, “ice tracked at record low levels from July 10 through July 14 and July 20 through the end of the month,” retreating over most regions of the Arctic Ocean, “especially over the Laptev Sea, northern Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, and Hudson Bay, where no ice remained at the end of the month.”

NSIDC said there had been little retreat in the Barents Sea, with ice at its average northward position for this time of year. Ice continued to linger along the coast in the East Siberian Sea, with low ice concentrations in the region and many open water areas. “By the end of the month, the Northern Sea Route that links Europe and Asia through the East Siberian and Laptev Seas appeared to be essentially open, whereas the Northwest Passage (both the southern and northern routes) remained blocked by ice.”

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